28 August 2013

Turning The Windmills Of Mind And Soul

I took this photo last weekend in the desert. I have always loved a good windmill farm and there was something so symbolic about this view, although at the time I wasn't sure what  it was about the dry ground, the turning windmills and the billowy clouds above.

As I have looked at this picture since then I have imagined my life the past year is the dry, tired ground. Now new winds are blowing and there are new lofty heights to enjoy above. I've been doing a lot of new things lately and learning a lot of new things about myself.

As part of our post deployment experience we are doing a mentoring/counseling program. It is incredibly interesting to chart the highs and lows of your life, to look back at your stress levels, what events have shaped your life for the better or worse. It's been a very interesting journey and I am so grateful to have skilled guides to lead us through it.

Taking time to unlock yourself and rummage around in your head certainly can be interesting...and stressful, worrisome, tiresome and thought-provoking. It's certainly not always easy. When you start to look at WHY you feel instead of WHAT you feel everything takes on added dimension, meanings are revisited and perceptions are deconstructed. It's stunning at times to see that our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. Very often we pick up perceptions and ways of creating meanings in our childhoods, based on our experiences, that we carry into adulthood without much thought.

It has been very interesting to be taught by a variety of chaplains and therapists in past weeks and hear new ideas that start the windmills of the mind churning. Sometimes the paths are not ones a person necessarily wants to visit, but it's obvious they need to be visited. Some days it's just too tiring to think about doing more excavating of the soul. Others days it presents instant relief and comfort. What can I say, it's an interesting journey to be on as a family. So glad to have good people to guide us as we learn and grow.

22 August 2013

Emergency Preparedness For A Blackout

So last night at about 8:30 we lost electricity along with 2500 of our neighbors. It seemed fun until just after I got candles lit all over the house. I headed for my laptop, happily knowing I had a fully charged battery. Depression sank in when I remembered I couldn't access the internet with the modem having no electricity. Such a drag.

Two hours later I had no phone battery left and with two flashlights in hand headed to our parking garage to plug my cell phone into the car charger. Just as I sat down in the car, the lights came back on. Crisis averted with just nine percent charge left on my phone.

So this inspired me to write a post on dealing with power blackouts. Here are a few ideas to get you through and a few handy things to have in the house during a blackout.

1) A good supply of candles. I always try to keep two IKEA 100 tealight candle packs in the house. I have enough little lanterns and glass candle holders that I can light the space up pretty well with a few well-placed tea lights. I also have a good supply of larger candles as well. No lack of candlelight if we need it.

2) A quality lantern with batteries. My mom bought this lantern for all of us for Christmas a few years ago. I keep the batteries in a separate space so they don't corrode in the lantern and ruin it. It requires quite a few large D batteries, which aren't cheap.

3) An emergency charger. The Man just bought this last week and he tried it out yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately last night when I needed it he'd already drained it testing it out earlier. But I definitely became a convert. It works like a charm. He mentioned buying another one which I am totally supportive of now.

4) Solar powered charger. You can get these for a phone or even for a laptop. These are super helpful during the day, but not so much at night. Wasn't an option during our nighttime blackout unfortunately. These are great for camping and the outdoors too.

5) Frozen ice packs in freezer. I started getting worried about the food in our freezer and refrigerator when initial estimates stated our power would be out for 10+ hours. The first key is to keep the fridge and freezer doors tightly closed. Don't let the cold air escape. Keeping frozen ice in bottles or buckets or packs in the freezer can help keep it cold too. Depending on the season of the year, the food should stay cold/frozen for several hours before you need to worry.

If we were to get to the breaking point where the refrigerator couldn't do it's job anymore I would grab our small coolers, load them with ice packs and put in all the hard core necessity items: milk, meats, etc. I would pack them tightly and then wrap them up in as many heavy blankets as I could find for insulation.

A couple of other things to consider during a blackout is safety. When the power goes out, the gates to our apartment parking garage have to be left open so that people can come and go. That means anyone can get into the building with easy access to the elevators up to the apartments. It also leaves cars and anything in the garage vulnerable to theft, especially when it's pitch black in the garage. The building security system also does not work.

Last night was also a good reminder to run the dishwasher as soon as it is full. Once the power was out, I was doomed to a load of still dirty dishes until morning. We also learned a good lesson in cleaning things up as soon as you are done with them. Once it was dark and the power was out it certainly was a lot harder to clean up a mountain of tiny Legos off The Bug's bed with only a flashlight to illuminate things.

It's also good to keep a flashlight handy in key places around the house and to try to keep those emergency tools in the same place all the time. It was nice to know I could go right to my nightstand and grab my headlamp to wear around the house while I was trying to wrap up the day. I also keep a pair of shoes right there under my bed for nighttime emergencies as well as my lantern & batteries. Every person in our family knew exactly where to find their own flashlights to use. We have them in bedrooms, by the front door, in the kitchen, etc.

You may wonder how we have so many flashlights. Well, The Man is Mr. Super Prepared and seems to have a bit of an obsession with high powered flashlights. If the world comes tumbling down, he's the guy I want to be with because he is beyond ultra prepared. I was also glad I knew exactly where to go for matches and a lighter. No frustration was had trying to immediately get the house up and running on flashlights and candlelight.

If you would like to know more about emergency preparedness during a blackout, The American Red Cross provides lots of information on their website. They have links to all sort of emergencies that may affect us, so it's a great spot to review all the scenarios we should take responsibility to prepare ourselves, our families and our homes for. Provident Living is another great place to get information on emergency preparedness.

I've written quite a few posts on emergency preparedness and it's interesting that they always seem to come when there has been some sort of emergency. Here are a few links.

Are We Ready? Taking The First Steps
Food Storage
Be Prepared, Safe And Comfortable
Three Important Efforts Towards Personal Preparedness
Water: An Emergency Essential
Learn To Defend You And Your Family

Hope you find something here that helps you be more prepared. It's a good feeling to know you have what you need when unexpected events happen.

21 August 2013

Handling Unprofessional Interactions With Others

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I have had two really bizarre experiences this summer that have totally left me bothered for days wondering what was really going on. In both situations I was dealing with people in their professional capacity, so it seems even more odd that they bungled the situations in a capacity they have been acting in for decades so badly. Actions were odd, communications weren't clear and I could feel that there was a lot of stuff going on that had nothing to do with me but was totally affecting our ability to communicate.

I have studied communications since college and usually have a pretty decent grasp of the process. In these two situations I was so thrown for a loop that I found myself just standing there stunned rather than feeling like I had been given any information to go forward with. I've thought about these two situations a lot, probably because I have never had such weird communications events ever.

I think they hurt me a bit too because I didn't feel like I was given a chance to walk away from the experience with a feeling of conclusion or success. Despite what may or may not have been going on, being spoken to clearly and professionally would've been better than having nothing to work with and left wondering what I could have done better, what was really happening, etc.

I can't do much about what was coming or going on from the other side, but I did think about some things I could do to at least help myself walk away not feeling frustrated and in the dark. It's possible too that these things might have helped the communications over all.

I think we all have the instinct to cut and run when we find ourselves in really strange and uncomfortable experiences. In both these situations, when things got a little weird, and I was left hanging with no information, it wasn't hard to turn and go. I think part of me definitely just wanted to get out of there because I did not get what was going on AT ALL.

Instead of doing that, I wish I would have been a little more calm and assertive. I wish I would have taken a slow, deep breath and not felt rushed to conclude the conversation and bolt out the door. I wish I hadn't just gone along with the weird directions they were steering me into and instead stood back and stayed grounded on my own two feet. I wish I would've thought to keep digging and ask the questions I needed answered. I needed to make sure that I had the information necessary to go forward in my own decision making processes and my own life rather than just standing there in surprise and feeling insulted. I wish I would've had the backbone to expect and demand the professional treatment I deserved. I would not have been rude, but I had every right to ask for and expect professional behavior and treatment.

It bugs me that these two situations bothered me as much as they did. I'm not sure if I'm more bothered by my "shrinking back" behavior or the other parties. Maybe what bothers me is that I am so self-critical wondering what I should have done differently when in reality I was put in really weird situations by these other people. I talked to a friend about these two experiences and she pretty much assured me that my nature is not to create situations like that and more likely to be flustered by them because they are so weird.

I am sure we all find ourselves in these weird situations at times. Do you find yourself, like me wondering if it's you or them or are you able to just put your foot down and say that was a really nutty experience, I'm not going to waste my time worrying about it? I'd love to hear how you've handled situations like this. It clear I have some things to learn on how to handle these weird moments.

20 August 2013

Starting The Christmas Gift Lists

It's Mid-August and I know that I need to start thinking about the holidays now if I want to keep things calm, simple and organized. Who needs the crush of all that extra stress right during the holidays? I always find that if I get things done in advance I have more time to just enjoy the holidays, the TV specials, the wonderful concerts and other shows in the community, the lights and festive atmosphere. I always enjoy the holidays most during the years when I am ready and prepared long before December 1.

This last weekend I started making my Christmas lists. Ideas have been rumbling around in my head so it seemed like a good time to make some notes. I started a list for The Bug, she doesn't need much but there are a couple of things that she would really like that cost a little more than most small toys. They are things she will use, so they are great additions to the list. Last night while I was kissing her goodnight The Bug whispered to me something else she'd like me to add to her list. So cute. I know we're in our last few years of her really having that magical, mystical feeling about Christmas and I want to enjoy every moment of it.

The Man, after several very busy and stressful years, has had the chance to start getting into some of his outdoor hobbies again recently. This is a part of him that I don't really even know because since we met he really hasn't had a chance to do much. It is really fun to see him get so excited about something fun, be able to get away, and be able to enjoy it with friends. Seeing the smile on his face I am wholeheartedly in support of making sure he does more with his hobbies. There are lots of little gift options with outdoor hobbies and there one big thing he needs that would make a great Christmas present.

I am making a list for myself as well. I always like to buy myself a little something for Christmas. After all, no one knows me better than me. Haha. Having a list is also helpful when people ask me what I need/want so that I actually have some ideas. On my list this year is a power tool. I want a jigsaw or a Dremel tool. Apparently you can get one that will do both. I should do some research on that so I can name a model that interests me. I also need little things like new pajama pants, a new blow dryer and I can never possibly own enough lotion.

A big thing I put on my list would be new dining chairs. I would love to build my own dining table (have talked about it here many times) but I can't whip up my own chairs. Even making my own benches sounds a little bit difficult with the space and time I have to work with. So building a beautiful table and not having chairs to go with it sounds frustrating, rather than pleasant. It's a big wish item, so not stuck on having it, but it would be fun.

I really want to get started on any projects I am making for the family. I'm not totally sure what those are yet. I think I would like to make gauze scarves but not totally sure yet. I feel like more and more we don't need stuff we need experiences together more. So that is definitely something to think about. I would especially like to do that with my family and The Man's family. We definitely need more time with loved ones who are all so far away from us.

It was just a few weeks ago that I put the Christmas decorations all in storage thinking the holidays were still more than six months away and now I'm feeling like I'll be pulling them out in no time. Times moves so quickly. Are you thinking about the holidays yet or do you think I'm crazy? How do you plan your holiday gift giving?

19 August 2013

Why Do I Have This Crummy Cook Book?

Two weeks as I was planning meals for first week of school I started consulting some cookbooks. I am bad with cookbooks. I won't let myself buy them anymore, but I do have quite a few and I don't use them. Some I've hung onto for years knowing that some day I would want to cook from them. Well someday is here and I'm realizing something.

I looked at a recipe book full of salads. I do love salad but I hated all but one of the salads shown in the entire book. Why did I still have this cookbook on my shelves?! Why did I even buy it in the first place. I realized it's now 16 years old. What the what? Getting it out of my life now.

Then I looked at another cookbook for slow-cooker meals. Again, the majority of the recipes sounded pretty awful to me. This got me thinking about that shelf of cookbooks in my kitchen and in larger matters about getting rid of things I don't need, use or actually like. Sorry, you know this topic is pretty much constantly on my mind. Thank you for indulging me.

For some reason books, particularly cookbooks often get a pass when I'm cleansing my life. But now my attention is turned directly at them. I do collect recipes and put them in binders and I have a nice system worked out for that. Usually if I need a recipe I just hop on the internet and find exactly what I want. But the cookbooks I've collected tend to just sit and gather dust. This week I am really going to look through them and weed some out.

Another set of books I'm seriously thinking about weeding through are all my old travel guides from my once upon a time world travels. I'm not sure they really hold any particular value anymore when everything has changed in all those countries and information is so readily available on the internet. I could keep them for historical record, but I don't think that is really necessary. Maybe if there are a couple with a lot of actual notes from trips I would keep those, but otherwise, they not needed.

I'm never sure what to do with books, if I should start an Amazon account for used booksellers or it I should just donate them and move on with life. If any of you had made this decision I'd love to hear how you did it and how that worked for you. I doubt the paperbacks are of much value but other books might be.

16 August 2013

Refreshing My World For Fall

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Fall is coming. Temperatures are cooler, school clothes have been bought. We're adjusting to the school year schedule, homework, lots of reading, earlier bedtimes, quieter nights at home. All this gets my creative juices going to think about who I am going to be this fall. By late August I am usually totally tired of everything about summer myself.

My hair will have been up in a bun for the past two to three months because it is just too long to style every day and too hot to even be able to completely blow dry. By this time of the summer I will no longer remember the last time I wore my hair down. At the same time, my hair has been through a lot of wear and tear in the summer, sun, from outdoor activities and such.

My lightweight summer clothing will be tired and some of it will be completely worn out. I will be tired of wearing flat sandals and flip flops and skirts and cotton blouses. I barely wear any jewelry in the summer so by this time of the year I'm ready to be a little more accessorized and layered. I am craving more variety than the simple summer stuff that gets you through hot, sweaty days, long walks, bike rides, amusement parks and picnics.

I also feel it's important to look around the fashion landscape - no matter what age you are. What has changed since last year, how have styles and trends altered. I always like to see how I can incorporate some trends into my wardrobe without looking silly and dressed way too young looking. I always love the 20s, 30s, 40s pages in InStyle Magazine where they adapts the latest looks for each decade of life. It's important to keep yourself looking stylish and fashionable. It makes such a huge impact on how people see and relate to you but even more importantly it affects how you think about yourself, treat yourself and act with others.

So I'm going to be doing a new series of posts this fall about how I'm adapting different parts of my life to the new season. Spring and fall seem to be the two seasons that really affect me in how I live my life. These are the times I am most likely to want to make big changes, overhaul everything, see things in a fresh new way. I have a fun list of topics and this is in fact inspiring me to get some things done and ready for fall. First issue is a haircut. I tell you all about it soon. I'm excited about this. Looking forward to sharing the journey.

Are you feeling the fall bug or hanging on tightly to summer still? What do you usually most want to change in the fall?

15 August 2013

Ways To Soothe The Unhappy Home

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I am sure we've all had those moments of contention, stress, grouchiness, snarly voices, stomping feet and other unpleasantness at some time in our homes. I find that some of our most grumpy times are immediately after church, school or arriving home from a long day when people are hungry and tired.

One thing we have done to help with that is to impose a family meeting immediately at the end of the school day. "Meetings" consist of tickling, laughing, talking and snuggling. This has totally curbed the meltdowns that used to happen around five at night. Now everyone gets stress relief, laughter and love all at the same time. This goes a long way to keep people calm, happy and getting along. It also keeps child complaining and whining down and tired parents more patient.

Another thing I do is to make simple snacks quickly available after people enter the door. I have small bowls of fruit, yogurt, water and other healthy snacks ready to go immediately. It's amazing what a little food will do to help maintain a positive attitude when people are tired.

The one thing that got me thinking about this subject was the effect of music on the home. I started putting on very calming church music right when we came home on Sundays. It made a huge and immediate difference in the way we interacted before lunch was served and throughout the rest of the day.

I have adapted that to play calming New Age or other meditative music on other days. When everyone is busy and stressed it's great to bring the energy level down a notch. Getting ready for bed time is another great time to get the mellow music playing. It helps everyone unwind from the day, quiets the body and sets a tone for sleep.

This works in the car as well. It gives parents a lot of control over the tempo and mood of the car while driving. It's amazing what a few small touches can to to keep things calm, orderly and relaxed. Days are long and hard enough for everyone without the added tension of tiredness, hunger and impatience. Keeping the home mood light and welcoming goes a long way.

14 August 2013

Back To School Family Night

Monday night we celebrated our first Back To School family night. I'll be honest, it was a lot of work and I was tired and not feeling really great. But I didn't want to miss an event that only happens once a year, especially when this was our first year to be able to start this tradition. So I pulled through it.

We started the afternoon by going to Despicable Me 2. Or as The Bug calls it "De-stick-able Me 2." I keep telling her it's "pick" and not "stick" and she knows it, but when she's in a hurry it still comes out "stick-able." Cracks me up. I love that there are still a few words she doesn't get quite right. That was always so cute when she was little.

Saturday I planned our menu and did all the grocery shopping. I decided to use the slow cooker so there wouldn't a lot of prep time. Here was our menu.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast (cooked in onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme and crushed black pepper)
Oven Roasted Potatoes (with olive oil, garlic, thyme, black pepper and chunky salt)
Spinach Salad (with cranberries and mandarin oranges)
Fresh English Cucumbers and Homegrown Tomatoes
Icebox Key Lime Pie with whipped cream

I put the roast in Monday morning about 11 a.m. on the low setting and from there it took care of itself. Once the roast was going, The Bug and I made the pies. Super easy recipe: frozen limeade, whipped topping, sweeten condensed milk and a little lime zest in a homemade graham cracker crust. I cheated, since I forgot to buy fresh limes and threw in a tablespoon of lemon zest instead. Didn't change a thing. The pies went into the freezer for the day.

When we got home from the movie I cut up the potatoes, threw together the olive oil herb mixture, mixed it all together and threw it on a cookie sheet into a 400 degree oven. All the thyme and rosemary I used was home grown. I love being able to just head out and cut what I need. We quickly threw together the salad and set the table.

I took all my inspiration for this event from Stephanie Nielson of NieNieDialogues. She makes the most fantastic paper crowns for her school age children each year.  From this link you can follow links to all her school feast events filled with wonderful photos. So fifteen minutes before dinner I gathered craft supplies on my bed and quickly made a cute little crown for our girl. I took this photo after the event so it looks a little worse for wear now, but at least you can get an idea of it.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner together (hours to make, minutes to devour) then Daddy shared his thoughts about the beginning of the school year. For our theme we chose two words COURAGE and ATTITUDE. He talked about each, how they apply to school and our lives. He did a great job. Then he gave The Bug a blessing for the school year.

Within seconds of completing the blessing, she was asking when we could have pie. Before she even finished the sentence she caught herself and realized that maybe she should be a little more focused on the moment at hand than rushing into dessert. It was very cute to watch her process all that.

We enjoyed delicious pie, then The Bug modeled her new outfit she has planned for the first day and then we danced for a few minutes in the living room. By 8 pm she ready to hop into bed, nightlight and music on, blankets positioned just as they should be, teeth brushed and ready for sleep. I thought she might be nervous, but she wasn't. I climbed into bed a few minutes later with my laptop. To my surprise, Daddy was in bed and asleep before 9:30. It was an early night for all, followed by a very efficient and happy morning for the first day of school. 

Lesson learned. I'm glad I pushed through and made it happen. I like that we did a movie in the afternoon before our dinner. Next year I am going to start working on things in advance. I'm glad I kept the meal simple. Next year I'm going to avoid turning on the oven. That really heated up the kitchen. Now that we've done one of these and we all know what to expect I hope we can make each coming year more memorable and magical. I feel like the first time it was a little like pulling teeth to get everyone on board and on schedule.

Did you have special night before the first day traditions growing up? Do you have them in your own family? I'd love to hear what you did/do! Leave a note below.

13 August 2013

8 Ways To Simplify The First Week of School

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Today is the first day of school. Crazy right?! It's barely August. I have very consciously been thinking about the first week of school lately. How I can make it special. How I can make it easier on everyone. So I sat down and made some plans that I hope will minimize exhaustion and stress, fill the week with fun, good food and the space to establish our routine again and maybe even improve on it.

1) School Shopping: I did one shopping trip online and one shipping trip to a department store. I saved a lot of money shopping sales and got everything done fairly quickly. We mostly needed tops and bottoms. We're in good shape with shoes, socks and underwear. As for school supplies, we're pretty well stocked still from last year and last year's backpack is still in great shape and much loved. I did buy a new pack of pencils and erasers while we were at the large chain department store.

2) Outfit Making: While we shopped we tried to buy things that would coordinate together in lots of different outfit combinations. We played with everything to see how many different combinations we could come up with. All the tops and bottoms we bought will work together with lots of other pieces. We worked through some options for the first week and are going to lay things out the night before so when we're tired in the morning we won't be stalled by indecision or brain freeze.

3)  Meals At Home: I decided to really focus on slow-cooker meals and quick fixes for the first week of school. I created a menu the weekend before and did all the shopping I needed to for lunches and dinners.

This way I will have good leftovers for school lunches from the dinners the night before too. Makes life a lot easier when you have a kiddo who prefers a hot lunch from home to any other options. (hello spoiled girl. haha. How can you be upset when she says she "I only like your cooking.") It's going to be hectic enough trying to get homework done at night and make bedtime. I know she's going to be especially tired the first week and I am sure the very early morning routine it going to hit me too.

4) School Lunches: I went through my lunch packing supplies and decided to buy one more little hot food container. I checked my supply of various sizes of reusable food containers and bags. I also looked for ways to make lunch a little less boring. Buying rolls for sandwiches instead of flat, boring bread, looking for a variety of colorful, healthy foods, thinking outside box beyond sandwiches. There are so many good school lunch ideas on Pinterest if you need some inspiration.

5) Bedtime: I found one especially exhausting day the week before school started to shift bedtime back to school hours. I remember our first week of school last year. I was falling over exhausted by nine at night. It felt good to get back in the groove with 8-8:30 bedtime, which is what I've found works best for her after a lot of experimentation. Now I just have to get used to the fact that once she's in bed it totally cramps the grown ups schedule. It's great to have that quiet time, but it's also rough when you can't leave the house for a few minutes because yo have a sleeping kid. That was really hard for me last year when I was here by myself. Couldn't sneak out to buy milk, or run a quick errand. That was continually frustrating.

6) Reorganizing Our Life: One thing I had to do was re-establish space for our school routine. For instance, the area where we usually do homework had been taken as a workspace by Daddy. Sorry Charlie, we needed that space back. I have found flow is one of the most important survival helps during the school year. Get into a routine and have the right tools and spaces to make it happen. Homework space near the kitchen is a must. Plus it is also our breakfast space too. Because Daddy wasn't here last year, it's going to be a BIG adjustment for him. He just doesn't quite understand the 8 pm bedtime yet. But hopefully he will. He likes to go out with the family in the evenings so he's going to need to adjust to doing things early or not at all.

7) Celebrate: I have always been super inspired by NieNieDialogues author Stephanie Nielson's Back-to-School family dinners. I wanted to do something like that this year. So I planned a easy-to-make-ahead dinner, a simple dessert and thought about what our hopes, dreams and goals for this school year were. I split up the duties with The Man and hoped for the best. I'll share more about what we did soon.

8) Plan In Rest Time: I know our school girl is going to be exhausted when she comes home from school the first week. It's going to be a shock to her system. So I am planning in lots of rest time after school and a good snack ready for her as soon as she gets home or in hand at pickup time. I'm expecting she may want to sleep when she gets home, I'm going to try for a nap on early out day. The rest of the days I'm going to try to keep her awake and get her to bed early but I definitely want her to be able to have some down time while she adjusts. It's a good week not to pack the schedule with too much outside activity or other stresses on the schedule.

I'm sure there will still be a few bumps along the way, but today is the big day for the first day of school. I'm ready to get back into a routine, but I'm sad to see full days for summer fun go away. Seven and an half weeks for summer vacation is just too short for me. When I was a kid we had more like 12 weeks and I don't think my kiddo is getting better educated for spending another full month in the classroom. Bummer.

I'm excited for that first walk to school this morning, to see our favorite principal and our wonderful first grade teacher again, and meet our new second grade teacher and best of all the end of the day pick up and to hear all about her first day of second grade. We can't wait to find out what friends will be in her class and see all the neighborhood kids again. So here we go. Back to school it is.

12 August 2013

Just Go For It

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Things have been pretty busy around these parts. It's the day before school starts and it feels like 10 critical and important events have all been running simultaneously. I'm not sure I've ever felt pulled in so many serious directions at one time. Little by little things are getting resolved and taken care of but I feel like what is on my family's plate right now is enough for 10 families to share. Have you ever felt this way? I'd love to hear how you walked through that.

So I did something quite bold last week. It's silly really but it felt very symbolic and I think it opened up a door for me that is going to push me to show more boldness in the future. I took a pair of scissors to a blouse I bought.

Last Christmas I bought a blouse that I thought I liked and looked good on me. I think I have worn it one time since then because for some reason the designer decided to put a little ruffle all the way around the round neckline. It always bugged me and I think it was the thing about that shirt that kept me from wearing it. I would put the shirt in the Thrift Store bag, then would take it out and reconsider. I did this a few times. Finally I looked at the way the blouse was constructed and realized I could just take a pair of scissors to the ruffle and hack it off. If it did a good job of it, there would be no raw edges and it would look so much better.

So I did it. And it felt so good. Sometimes I have this feeling that if I do something like that I'm going to end up totally wrecking the blouse (or whatever it is that I want to make a change to) so I hesitate. But it's okay to take something that someone else conceived and make it work for me. What would've been lost if I had wrecked the blouse anyway? I wasn't wearing it. It was of no value to me the way it was. I wore it the next day and it was great - and I got compliments on my great "new" blouse. The neckline looked so much better and it looked like a top that I would wear. Goal achieved!

So now I'm excited to wear this blouse again. But this all has some larger meaning. I feel like I did one little bold thing that was a step I needed to be more bold in my life in other ways. I need to be more bold about taking what isn't working for me and making it work for me. Sometimes it's so easy to just continue to be dissatisfied with something that isn't working for us and never attempt to fix it. My blouse was a good reminder for me that whether it's a relationship, a piece of furniture, a home, a car, my clothing or my hair, it's okay to make a bold change. In fact, bold change is usually the step that propels us forward to the things we really want. Let's see where this blouse will take me now.

05 August 2013

We Don't Need More Organizational Products

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After a lot of coming and going the past little while I had a quiet weekend to really acknowledge what a total wreck the house was. Disastrous. So I took the time to start cleaning and getting everything back to it's reasonably organized chaos. As I did I found myself compiling a bag to take to the thrift store.

As I step over a three-tiered paper organizer I bought a couple of years ago (that I have never found  a helpful use for) I thought, we do not need more tools to help us organize the house. What we need is just less stuff in the house, period.

How about that organization industry. Every retail store seems to sell organizational products in pretty colors, shapes and textures now. But are we taking advantage of these tools to help us live simpler lives or are we spending millions of dollars every year just to store more stuff we don't really need? The thought of that really energized me to keep getting rid of stuff.

As I opened and closed closets and drawers around the house I increasingly frustrated at the amount of things I saw that were not important or necessary. Sure it's great to have options in life, but at some point options and things you are keeping because you "might need them one day" or because you "paid good money" for them once upon a time just don't make any sense. You end up spending more time and money than it would cost to replace the items, so that you can store them. Silliness.

So I am spinning around my house with an open bag and getting rid of unnecessary stuff. It sneaks up on you fast. This is a house I just deep cleaned this spring and already it feels cluttered again. Today I am making a trip to the thrift store. I can't wait to dump things off and be rid of them and have a little more space and sanity in my life.

Have you thought about how much you are spending on organizational tools, rather than just getting rid of things you don't need? How are you acting on this concept in your own life? I'd love to hear!

01 August 2013

Squeeze In A Few More Fun Activities This Summer

Even though we are only a couple of weeks away from the beginning of school here, there is still lots of summer to enjoy. It's time to get serious about making the most of the remaining longer, warmer days before the cold winter comes.

Here are a few things I would like to do before the end of summer with my little clan.

1. Go stargazing. We really only see a handful of stars here in the city if we are lucky. But just 20 minutes from our house, if you can duck behind the hills of the city, the whole sky opens up. We just downloaded the Night Sky app onto the iPad.

2. Barbecue. I don't think we've done this in any form yet this summer. That is pretty embarrassing. We need to get on that.

3. Roast hot dogs and make s'mores over a bonfire. I think the hot dog needs to be wrapped in bacon. And the chocolate needs to be more upscale that that uber famous American brand. We like to use Guittard large milk chocolate chips in my family.

4. Overnight camping. Obviously quite a few of these can be combined into one event. I think beach camping might be in order this year. I'm checking out options.

5. Dutch oven cooking. I love cooking in a dutch oven. I love making dinners and desserts. Did you know you can even bake a cake at specific temperatures based on how many charcoal briquettes you use? Here's a great chart. We made a gorgeous pie once inside a dutch oven. It was delicious. I have to sneak in here that I would also really like to make Tin Foil Dinners this summer.

6. Spend time with friends. I am seriously considering contacting some of the families we are friends with and organizing a weekend camping trip to a group beach campground near here. We have not spent nearly enough time with friends this summer. The week school got out my dear friend and I started scheming summer plans we could do with our kids. We have not seen them once this summer due to crazy schedules and travel.

7. Go to an amusement park. I think we'll try something different this year. Last year we had a multi-visit pass to Disneyland and California Adventure. We can buy those again in September for the coming year but before that it would be fun to check out Knott's Berry Farm or one of the smaller local amusement parks. It's always fun to try something new.

8. Go to a concert. We didn't even go to fireworks this year. Lame. We need a good concert in the park. I may check out The Hollywood Bowl or one of the other local amphitheaters. There might be something fun going on there.

9. Swim. I haven't been swimming in quite a while. I like to swim. This is a standard summer event that should be happening.

10. Play games in the park. We haven't been making much use of our family sports bag this year. That is probably because The Bug is full throttle into bike riding now, so we're more mobile and less tied to playing in grassy fields. But we should use it!

What are you hoping to squeeze in before the end of summer? Any of these? What other great ideas would you suggest?
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