What’s Under All of Our Stuff?

It’s been a year of do-ing. We sold our big house and did a major remodel on a house less than half its size. We sold, donated or discarded most of our stuff, except for the contents of one container of things that we weren’t sure we wanted or would fit in our small home once we placed the furniture that we were definitely keeping. That container was a source of comfort, at first, but quickly became a source of stress. Deep down I knew we’d have to get rid of most of its contents,  since these things wouldn’t fit in our new space. I scheduled a pick up date for the container so that we would have a deadline to have it emptied.  We pared down yet another bunch of stuff, kept only what we wanted and would fit in our tiny loft storage, and met our deadline.

We are continuously organizing what we decided to keep and have been working on creative storage solutions for our living space. This has actually been interesting and fun! It’s also been an exercise in patience. It takes time to fully understand and identify a need, since it’s based on our family’s habits over time. Once the need is determined, I try to figure out an attractive, useful, space-saving system that works. For example, instead of a bulky desk in the corner of our dining room to store some office supplies, we are going with open boxes made of left over reclaimed lumber that hang on the wall. The office supplies will be tucked into attractive baskets that slide into the boxes.

The do-ing has finally slowed down and I’ve had more time to just, “be.” Minimalism can expose emotions we didn’t know we had or new feelings can arise from living in a smaller space with less stuff.  

I couldn’t even identify or put into words what I was feeling at first, I just felt out of sorts and cranky. I finally realized that I needed some down time after work and quiet time, in general, to think and process what I was thinking and feeling. In our bigger home, time to myself was automatic, given the amount of space we had. Oftentimes, I would be in our bedroom reading and my husband would be two floors down watching television. Or one of us would be starting dinner while the other one would be sitting on the porch. We always looked forward to a family dinner together and spending the rest of the evening in the same space.

With less physical boundaries creating separate space for alone time, I’ve had to communicate my needs and have had to learn how to be alone while sharing the same space.  As I write this post, my daughter is watching football and my husband is lighting a fire after working outside for a few hours. We are all in the same space, doing our own thing. It works!

What’s under all of our stuff? I guess it depends on what we make of it. I decided to plant grass seed in the bare spot left from where the storage container sat in our front yard.
under all our stuff

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Bag of Tricks

There’s almost nothing that a nap, yoga and a cup of herbal tea (and a farm full of animals) can’t cure.

 

catskill animal sanctuary

The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, NY

 

I haven’t written in a while about feeling anxious or depressed, since I’ve been feeling pretty balanced. Although I’m curious about why I feel the way that I do, I try not to dwell too much on what I can’t control, and move on.

The truth is, I still have moments when I feel a little low and dwell a little longer than I’d like.

I’m so grateful that I have a menu of things to choose from to help me feel better and more balanced during these times. I think of these things, collectively, as my bag of tricks because they have proven, time and time again, to be helpful.

Some of the things in my bag of tricks are gardening, walking, hiking or just being outside, playing with Ellie, my daughter’s dog, meditation, healthy eating, writing and getting together with people I love. I choose what I need depending on how I feel, the weather and who or what is available.

I felt a little low recently and not very motivated at all. It was a cool, rainy day. I took a nap, did yoga and had a cup of one of my favorite herbal teas. I felt better!

Holding a chicken is pretty awesome too!

What’s in your bag of tricks?

 

 

 

Creating S P A C E for Me

cairn

The more curious and open to learning new things I’ve become the more I’ve realized that creating space can make some positive changes.

Space in my closets

Means that I don’t have to spend time picking through outfits that don’t fit, are out of style or aren’t flattering.

I donate clothing on a continuous basis and strictly adhere to the “one in, one out” rule: I don’t buy a new item of clothing unless I get rid of one first. This keeps my closet under control as I continue to figure out my style and what works for me. I’ve gotten many tips from Courtney Carver on how to pare down my wardrobe, and hope to get up the courage for Project 333, her minimalist fashion challenge course (https://bemorewithless.com/project-333/), soon.

Space in my cabinets

Means that I use what I love and nothing goes to waste.

I’ve eliminated duplicates, use quality items and waste less food (hiding at the bottom of my freezer or in the back of my cabinets).

Space on my countertops

Means that clean ups are easier.

Less clutter makes me feel more relaxed.

Space in my social calendar

Means that I have time to do what is meaningful to me.

I’d rather give more time and attention to fewer things than rush through an overwhelming social calendar.

Space in conversations

Means that I am a better listener and that I am able to respond rather than react.

I used to let my emotions get the best of me and feel the need to react immediately. Oftentimes, after thinking about a previous conversation, I would see things in a different way and even regret some things that I’ve said. Although I’m still working at this, I feel like I am able to provide a more thoughtful response rather than an immediate reaction.  Sometimes, “sleeping on it” really does make a difference when it comes to emotions!

Space from TV and internet

Means that I am more engaged in mind and body activities (rather than things that are mind numbing).

I was raised on TV and admit that watching television is one of my favorite pastimes, but by watching less I can do more things, especially things from my self-care routine (like yoga and meditation), that have more lasting positive effects. Since it’s easier to pick up the remote after a long day, this can be challenging for me. What has worked for me lately is reducing my screen time slowly or putting my phone out of sight for a few hours or even an entire weekend.

Creating space means

More time

More quality

More calm

More meaning

More presence

More thoughtfulness

More creativity

More self-care

More gratitude

More love

More ME

The Sum of Small Efforts

Did you ever feel as if you’ve taken two steps forward and one step back?

I’ve been feeling this way lately, but my daughter’s dog  Ellie actually reminded me  to look at the big picture and that growth shouldn’t be measured by any one act. She’s so smart.

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

-Robert Collier

I may have taken a step or two in the wrong direction, like when I felt I was inconsiderate to a friend,  or when I’ve eaten too much junk food or been a couch potato, or even when I’ve been mildly obsessed with the latest Twitter rant from the POTUS (or the live video feed of April, the pregnant giraffe), but it doesn’t mean I’m inconsiderate, unhealthy or not mindful.

I’ve learned so much  about what makes me happy and healthy  and have been steadily moving forward. THIS is what defines me. I’ll never be perfect (and I’m not sure I ever want to be), but I’m moving in the right direction!

How did I learn all this from Ellie?

I smiled when I looked down to put on my slippers the other day. I found Ellie’s bone tucked inside the left one, the one she had chewed on months ago. Ellie had left me a gift! Such a sweet, loving act. THIS defines her!

slipper

 

 

 

What a Difference a Day Makes

Patience is not my best asset, at home, at work or in relationships. If I have something to say, I usually say it, sooner, rather than later. My words aren’t always wrapped in a nice, neat bow or palatable to those receiving them, but I’m learning to pause more often, respond rather than react, and to listen more than I speak (sometimes).

Yesterday began like any other day. As I was rushing around getting ready for work, I clumsily walked into the corner of my stairs. Ouch, that really hurt! I immediately felt the pain on the top of my foot, but didn’t give it a second thought as I walked out the door and got into my car.

I sat most of the day, grading exams, which happens only twice a year. As a high school teacher, I’m used to being on my feet for 6 hours a day. I walked in my front door at the end of the day feeling happy that the weekend was ahead of me, but I was quickly reminded of the morning mishap. My foot really ached!

I brushed it off and went on with my usual end of the day routine, checking social media, texting, talking on the phone, and figured the pain was only temporary. It must be. I hadn’t felt anything all day.  It was the end of the work week  and nothing would come between me and an enjoyable (pain-free) weekend. I was sure I would feel better in the morning.

After about an hour, I couldn’t deny it any longer. The pain and stiffness in my foot got worse, and I couldn’t put any weight on it. I needed to get it checked out by a professional as soon as possible.

I couldn’t drive, but my husband was due home in 30 minutes. He took me to a local Urgent Care facility for an x-ray. The pain had gotten so much worse that I flinched when the physician’s assistant gently manipulated my foot. I even had to be transported to the x-ray room in a wheelchair.

Oh, man, was I in a bad mood. I was in excruciating pain (a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10) AND I was helpless. I just wanted to get the x-ray results, get out of there, and get back to the security and comfort of my home and my couch.

When the PA returned  with crutches and an ace bandage, he said, “Don’t worry, this isn’t as bad as it looks.” He went on to say that nothing was broken but he wanted to wrap my foot, and that I shouldn’t put any weight on it for a few days.

Great news! Now I just wanted to get on with my weekend. I got a quick lesson on how to use the crutches, which it turns out I’m not very good at (since I almost fell), and we were out the door in the time it took my husband to pull up the car and for me to hobble out the door and into the passenger seat.

crutches

We arrived home and I wasn’t going to let a few stairs keep me from getting into my front door so I crawled up them! I was feeling pretty desperate and still in a lot of pain, as I snapped at my husband for cracking a joke. Looking back, I’m sure I did look pretty funny and  knowing my husband, he was just trying to make me feel better and lighten things up a bit.

I followed the “doctor’s” orders, took some ibuprofen, applied ice to my foot and elevated it for the rest of the evening. By the time I went to bed, my foot was feeling better and I was hopeful that I was on the mend.

I kept the crutches near my bedside in case I needed them during the night, but remarkably, I didn’t need them! The pain in my foot got progressively better and I was able to walk without pain in the morning. I was so happy and relieved!

What a difference a day can make!

Sometimes, our lives can change in an instant. From normal to the unexpected or even the unimaginable. From good to bad, or as was the case with me, thankfully, from bad to good.

Be patient, with yourself and others. That old saying that I know I’ve heard many times from my mom to, “sleep on it” has a lot of merit. I’ve felt emotionally charged on many occasions and rather than hit send, open my mouth, or make that call, I’ve waited to respond (some of the time).

With the passage of time, my foot didn’t hurt as much. I felt much better, physically.  This experience made me think about how the passage of time can also heal or prevent emotional wounds and improve communication. I’ve found that when I don’t react so defensively, it can make matters better, not worse. I can communicate my feelings more effectively, and find that people are more willing to listen.

This takes some finesse and lots of patience, which definitely do not come naturally for me! I practice being patient every day and when I slip up, I learn from it and move on. I’m sorry I snapped at you, Kevin and thanks so much for making dinner, Adella.

Sleep on it! It’s never too late to follow mom’s advice. What a difference a day can make.

Layer Cake Wisdom

Not sure if it’s that food has been inspiring me to think more deeply about life (read what I learned from a veggie wrap in a previous post here: https://beallthere.net/2015/10/17/a-lesson-in-perspective-from-a-veggie-wrap/) or if it’s the fact that I’m more open to learning these days. Either way, as Alanis Morissette belts out, “You live, you learn.”

This time the lesson began with a picture of a festive layer cake I saw on line. It was stunningly beautiful and I knew the moment I saw it that I wanted to make it and bring it to my sister’s house for Christmas. It was at least a foot tall and consisted of multiple layers (more than two) of snowy white cake and icing with flecks of red and green inside the cake (creating a tie-dye effect), and a dusting of the same red and green bursts of color between the layers, on the sides and on top of it.  It would be a show stopper!

The ingredients were pretty basic and I knew I could easily alter the recipe to make the cake vegan. The most challenging thing to find was the container of red and green “jimmies,” as I call them, or “sprinkles,” as you may know them.

After searching the entire supermarket in town for this pivotal ingredient with my daughter, we spotted the lone container of red and green jimmies in the last aisle on top of the ice cream freezer. Desperate to get the goods, we both lunged for the container as if there were others competing for it, and then laughed to each other about our silliness, since we were the only ones in that competition. We were satisfied with our “win” just the same and knew that no one could have rivaled our split second timing in making the jimmies our own and putting them in our shopping cart!

cake

My mind wandered while we were waiting for the movie to start and I was relieved that I remembered to bake the layers for my holiday masterpiece earlier so I could ice it the next day when it was completely cooled.  I felt happy that I was with my family of four as we continued a relatively new Christmas Eve tradition of going to the movies and out to dinner. My relief quickly changed to regret as I realized that I had forgotten to add the red and green jimmies to the batter! Just as quickly, I was back in my happy place again, seeing the humor in the whole cake thing. It was only a cake and it would still look and taste great.

The next day (Christmas), right before we left for my sister’s, I was ready to assemble “The Masterpiece.” After I put some icing between the two layers, I iced the sides and then the top of the cake. Just as I was about done, my daughter walked into the kitchen and asked why I hadn’t added the second layer of cake before I completely iced it. I informed her that I HAD added the second layer and we both laughed at how flat the cake was, in comparison to our muse.* I hadn’t considered that the vegan recipe might limit the cake’s height and it looked lost on its large palette. When we covered it in red and green jimmies, it looked festive, and I was certain it would taste great.

cake3

We had a wonderful time at my sister’s and the cake looked and tasted fine. Even though it was drastically different from what my daughter and I had imagined, it was so much more. When my daughter thought back to the new Christmas memories we made this year she commented that lunging for those jimmies together in the supermarket with me would be one of her fondest.

As I continue to feel somewhat restless about and unsure of my future, my passion and my place in life, I am reminded that,

Life is a journey, not a destination

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be brave, be kind, take risks, stay curious, embrace change, keep striving to make what’s in your heart and what’s in your head a reality, have self-compassion when you fall short of your goals, and know when to ask for help.

Happy New Year!

 

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

 

*If you want a good laugh, just search google images for “green tie dye cake” and you will see what my inspiration was for my holiday cake, and how much I fell short (but not really).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace, Love and Presence

snowyscene

It’s been a great year! I continue to focus on being, “Happy and present-one day at a time,” but I have to admit that I’ve been struggling lately. I’ve been feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, short of patience and oh, so tired. I know these feelings are not uncommon this time of year, but I can’t remember feeling this way with such a constant intensity.

I feel as if life is on VOLUME TEN!

 Perhaps it’s because my hard work has paid off and, by comparison to my normally calm, grounded daily routines, this time of year now seems off the charts in every way.
No matter the reason, I’ve been working to get back on track to  Peace, Love and Presence!
Here are some things that I’ve found helpful and that I hope can lighten your load this holiday season:
  1. Realize that many people share similar feelings and that this time of year can bring a wide range of emotions for a variety of reasons, like grief, depression and anxiety, to name a few.
  2. Understand that your feelings are temporary and most likely will pass after the holidays are over. Around this time last year I wrote about how I was feeling some of the same feelings!
  3. Share your feelings with those closest to you and ask for help when you need it. Chances are pretty good that your loved ones have noticed that you’ve been a little short of patience. I’m sure mine have!
  4. Practice self compassion and self care-you know the drill! If not, read my post about self compassion here: https://beallthere.net/2016/02/14/self-love/ and read about my self care routine here: https://beallthere.net/2015/08/22/funkytown-just-passing-through/
  5. Be present. Certainly honor your past and dream about your future, but try not to dwell on them, especially this time of year. It feels good to let go of some of the sadness of what was and the worry of what will be. It will all work out, it always does. You can read what I wrote about Christmas Presence here: https://beallthere.net/2015/12/15/christmas-presence/
  6. Acknowledge your feelings, including any physical symptoms. I’ve been experiencing some aches and pains, and, when I went to the doctor last week and she asked if I was under any stress, I denied it because I actually was unaware that my stress was causing physical symptoms. Luckily all is well and I’m feeling much better.
  7. Be quiet. When feeling overwhelmed, it helps to turn down the volume. Turn off the television, unplug,  and dim the lights. It can have a calming effect.
  8. Take time off if you can. Carve out some time away from your desk or your computer to unwind and recharge.
  9. Have a cup of tea. Since it’s meant to be sipped slowly, it will help slow down your pace.
  10. Be playful. My daughter’s dog, Ellie makes me laugh and smile every day!

eleanor

Wishing you Peace, Love and Presence this Holiday Season, and always!

Love,

Jeanne