#Minsgame Challenge - Days 13-16

Like I said, days 9-12 started to get challenging. These next four days, I really had to start thinking outside the box to places I hadn't been looking. The kitchen got a nice once over to discard old food items, and I revisited my closet for yet another purge. It's starting to feel a lot lighter in the house.

This Installment: 58

Total Items: 136

#Minsgame Challenge - Days 9-12

This is the part where it started to get tricky. It wasn't impossible or anything, but it makes me wonder if I'll really be able to keep up this game through the end of the month. I'm not sure how I'm going to jettison more than a dozen items PER DAY through the rest of February.

I think it's more of a mental thing though. I think I'm at a "hurdle" point and once I get past it I'll be fine. At least that's what I'm hoping.

This Installment: 42

Total Items: 78


On Things Left Unsorted

There's this place on my desk of things left unsorted. Paperwork that I am yet to file away. Things that haven't found a place. I go through it every now and again, and I find that blurry picture wrapped in an envelope from Women's Health Specialists. The ultrasound photo I never got to share with the world. Sometimes I look at it. Sometimes I don't.

I don't know where to put it. I just say "I love you. I'll always love you." Then I put it back with the things I leave unsorted.


I stand in the crowd outside of Sundance Bookstore and ask David Sedaris what I should name my unborn child.

"What's your last name?" he asks.

"Hartley."

"Huckleberry." He says it like it's the most natural choice in the world. Like, obviously you should name your child Huckleberry. You should know this already. It's like, child-naming 101. "You can go anywhere with a name like Huckleberry Hartley."

And my face looks a little weird, I've probably looked a little weird all night because I am fan-girling-the-hell-out over meeting David Sedaris, and he says people always give him this weird look, and he can tell they will not name their children in accordance with his wishes.

But I'd show him. I had it all planned out in my mind, how I was going to look up David Sedaris in a few months time and send him a birth announcement. Huckleberry Walter Hartley. We were going to call him Huck for short. Huck's a tough name. Huckleberry's sweet.

My sweet little Huckleberry. I loved it.


I'm sitting here telling the midwife about how I keep getting canker sores ever since I got pregnant, while she tries to find the heartbeat with the doppler.

Then I tell her I'm nervous because my friend just lost her baby at 9 weeks and didn't find out about it until her 12 week appointment. This is my 12 week appointment. My friend told me she started feeling better all of a sudden, less nauseous and tired and all that, when the baby stopped growing. And I've been feeling better too.

The midwife tells me I'm going to be fine. She thought she heard a blip of a heartbeat, and it just got away from her.

But she's taking me to another room to get out the ultrasound machine. I've played this scenario out in my head a hundred times. I know it's not going to be fine. And it's not.


I have one of those vivid pregnant dreams that night. I go in for that ultrasound, and they find the heartbeat. They find it right away. I see the flicker on the screen and my heart's so full of love I could burst. I wake up smiling. Then I stop smiling. I stop smiling for a long time.


"Is there any chance you're pregnant?"

The question catches me off guard. It's like some sort of sick joke. The pharmacist looks at me, and I don't know what to say.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am pregnant. I'm pregnant, and my baby is dead, and I need whatever cocktail of pills you're giving me so I can go through the hell of having a doctor surgically remove my dead baby from my womb. Does that answer your question?

"No," I say.

I don't hear the things she says next. I don't know what half of these pills are for. Pain, numbing, dilation, I don't know. I take them home and cry.


I tell the OB I want the ultrasound. I know he's not going to see anything different than my midwife. Or the second midwife. But I need to see my baby one last time. I need that closure.

He sighs impatiently. We do the ultrasound. There's the baby. No movement. No heartbeat.

I ask questions because it gives me some feeling of being collected and in control. I don't tend to cry as much when I'm asking questions. I ask about hemorrhaging, if it's a concern, because of some family history. He tells me it's an everyday procedure.

"It's just like having an abortion," he says.

That's when I start crying, and when the procedure begins the crying turns to wailing. It hurts in more ways than I thought humanly possible. The OB tells me it shouldn't hurt that bad yet. I tell him it's mostly emotional pain. I want to tell him to go fuck himself.

But the physical pain gets worse too. I just stare and Rob and squeeze his hand and say how badly it hurts over and over and over again, until the OB stops halfway through and asks me if I want him to stop the procedure. If he should book an operating room so he can put me under if I can't handle this. If my pain tolerance is too low.

He's upset I'm not handling this more calmly. I'm upset that he's ripping my life to shreds from inside my body. It's an ugly sort of stalemate.

I ask him how much worse the pain will get. He shows me. I tell him to keep going. But I don't stop crying. I can't.


The next day is Rob's birthday. We go out to dinner. We talk about missing the kids, how it'll be better when they come home. There are a lots of quiet moments. I wish we had stayed home.


Eventually we sit out in the backyard and talk. We talk until there's nothing left to talk about. We talk until I'm so sick of talking that I never want to talk again. But I keep talking.

I tell him I still want to have another baby. I tell him I want to try again.

It's not the time to talk about that sort of thing, but I need to know this isn't the end of the line. I need to know I have another shot. It's the only way I'll survive this.

And so we talk about how it's worth this terrible pain to hold a baby in your arms. It's worth everything.


I talked to lots of other people too. I talked myself half to death. I talked about premonitions. How I always knew something wasn't quite right. How I felt it coming in some deep dark place in my soul. How it wasn't meant to be.

I still believe all that's true, but it doesn't make me miss my Huckleberry less. It doesn't take away that love.


You were due to enter the world two days ago. It was a quiet sort of Sunday. Rainy and calm. It would've been a nice day to be born.

Everyone wants to tell me to be happy about your brother or sister, growing healthy and strong inside of me. They tell me things are so much better now. And I am happy. I am grateful for this new life. I am overwhelmed by it. Truly.

But I want to remember you too. I want you to know you still matter. That you're still in my heart. That I'll always remember the birthday you never had. I love you. I'll always love you.


It's hard when two loves overlap.

It's hard to be happy and sad at the same time.

It's hard to have an ultrasound and no place to put it.

It's hard to leave things unsorted.

#Minsgame Challenge - Days 5-8

This was a another few days of random junk from random drawers. Definitely feeling like I could keep this up for the rest of the month. There was a lot of literal trash that had been stashed in drawers for years. I'm feeling pretty ashamed.

This Installment: 26

Total Items: 36

#Minsgame Challenge - Days 1-4

Well, obviously the first few days of this are easy. Too easy almost. I pretty much just grabbed stuff in plain sight and out it went. Question: Is it sacrilegious to get rid of a Bible? I mean, it's too late now, I'm just wondering. 

This Installment: 10

Total items: 10

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Vegan White Beans with Garlic, Tomatoes and Sage

Last week was an epic week of trying new meals. Everything was turning up roses. I made some awesome cabbage rolls and tangy coleslaw and make-ahead breakfast sandwiches that cook straight from the freezer. But none of those were quite the match for this delicious, hearty vegan bean dish. It was my crowning achievement of the week, for sure.

It's cheap. It's healthy. It's vegan. It's filling. It's delicious. It requires hardly any hands on prep (hallelujah!). I mean, how many good things can I say about one meal?

I made the whole batch, and we had no problem plowing through the leftovers. They reheat beautifully and keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.

Prepping the beans takes a couple hours, but you can always do that step earlier in the day (or even a day ahead of time) and then you've got a quick 30-minute meal for a weeknight dinner. It's a rockstar sort of meal like that.

I paired it with a mixed green salad with balsamic dressing, and felt like some sort of health conscious domestic goddess. It was a brief but beautiful moment. Followed shortly by chocolate ice cream.

Vegan White Beans with Garlic, Tomatoes and Sage

adapted from The New Best Recipe

serves 6 (as a main course)

  • 1 pound dried white beans (such as navy or cannellini)
  • 1 whole head of garlic, top sliced off and papery outer skin removed
  • 2 medium carrots, cut roughly into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, halved through the root end and papery outer skin removed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sage, roughly chopped
  • 1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring the beans, head of garlic, carrots, onion, bay leaves and water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat and let sit for an additional hour, until beans are completely tender. Drain beans, reserving one cup of cooking liquid. Discard carrots, onion and bay leaves. Squeeze out the softened garlic and return to the pot with the drained beans. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil, sliced garlic and sage over medium heat. Cook until garlic slices are golden and sage has darkened, about 4-5 minutes. Add in diced tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the tomato liquid is evaporated and the tomatoes look shiny, about 10 minutes.

Add beans, softened garlic and the reserved cooking liquid and simmer over medium heat until the cooking liquid has evaporated, about 18-22 minutes. Off the heat, stir in minced parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with additional olive oil for drizzling.

Less Than Perfect

I'm posting a little later in the day today, because things just didn't turn out the way I'd hoped. I had thought I was going to write this piece about how this year was all about feeling abundance, about feeling like I have more than enough and more importantly, about feeling like I am more than enough - as a mother, as a person, as a writer, etc.

But it doesn't feel that way today. I don't feel like I'm more than enough. It's one of those days where I've been knocked down and reminded of how less than great I can be. One of those days I've lost patience with the kids and the house is a total disaster and old hurts and insecurities have come marching up out of nowhere.

And I want to be real about days like today, because they happen to all of us. Those happy, motivational, inspiring posts don't always get written, because this is how life is unfolding right now. And you know what? That's okay.

Amidst this life that is more than enough, there are still less than perfect moments.

Less Stuff, More Love

I can't believe it's almost February. What a fun, whirlwind month this has been.

February gets me all lovey feeling. I've always had a soft spot for Valentine's Day, even when it didn't turn up roses for me (pretty much all of high school). It's not just about romantic love either. February makes me want to love my babies more, love my friends more, love my life more. I just want to bury others and be buried in piles of love.

I get weird like that sometimes.

This year, I'm thinking about love in a whole different way. I'm noticing the way minimalism and intentionality are making me love my life more. I feel like the less stuff I have, the more space I have to love, mentally and physically.

So I've decided to do a little minimalist challenge for the month of February, and I would love it if you would join me. It's supposed to be a 30-day Minimalist Game, but I feel a little less intimidated by a 28-day one.

Basically, you get rid of one item on day one, two on day two, all the way up to the end of the month. I'm bending the rules a bit by not getting rid of each item by the end of the day (I have two kids, ain't nobody got time for a daily trip to the Goodwill drop-off) but it will all be gone by the end of the month.

If you plan on playing, leave your twitter handle (or blog) in the comments and use #MinsGame for your posts so we can check in on our progress together. I'll meet you here next month. Let's make February a month for less stuff and more love.

xoxo

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad

I love a good caprese salad. Cheese, tomatoes, basil and a little oil and vinegar. That's salad perfection right there. Except, you know, the fact that there's no actual salad greens to be found. It's kind of a salad in the same way taco salad is (the most delicious way).

I decided to play up the traditional caprese salad and make it into an actual salad for lunch or even a light dinner. Could I make a full meal of regular caprese? You bet I could. You'd be appalled and amazed at the amount of cheese I can eat in one sitting. I did it just a few days ago actually, before deciding to add the salad greens to my meal, because oh-my-god-I-just-ate-so-much-cheese.

The roasted tomatoes are really what takes it over the top. It brings out that sweet summery flavor you don't always get with winter tomatoes, and it helps them soak up all the delicious balsamic vinegar and oil you pour over them. So much goodness.

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad

serves 2-4

  • 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 5 oz. bag spring mix salad greens
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve tomatoes lengthwise and place cut side up on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Bake until skin is puckered and juices are leaking, about 10 minutes.

Plate salad greens and sprinkle each plate with cubed cheese and roasted tomatoes. Drizzle with oil and vinegar (you can add more or less depending on your taste) and finish with chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Resolution Update: The Envelope System

So, remember how I resolved to ditch the credit card and move to an all cash model with our budget this year? I didn't really think it would make that big of a difference. I thought I was responsible with our money as it was. I kept to a zero-out model budget and paid off the credit card in full each month. I used our debit card for most day-to-day purchases. I didn't think cash would really change our spending habits much. I thought it would just add a weird layer of inconvenience in which I must keep track of different envelopes filled with cash for different purchases.

I was wrong, people. So wrong.

Cash is a game changer.

Here's how it worked: At the beginning of the month we made a trip to the bank and got out money for our various budgeted envelopes. Right now, those are: kid's stuff, entertainment, pets, clothing/haircuts, health/home, lunch money (for Rob), and groceries. We continue to use our debit card for gas, because it's more convenient and we don't tend to overspend or fudge the numbers on gas expenses. We also decided to only get out $100 per week for groceries to avoid an end of month fiasco in which there was no money or food left in the house.

Do you know how much money we have spent outside of those envelopes? None. None whatsoever. Actually, most envelopes still have some money left inside.

There is something very helpful about having the visual aid of cash to show you that when the money's gone it's gone. When you can physically see it, you really don't want that money to be gone.

Our first week with a grocery envelope was hard (first world problems hard, but still). I had to go without greek yogurt for three whole days and shift one of our meals to later in the week because I had no heavy cream, and I had spent all the money. But after that hard hitting lesson, I was much more careful about meal planning within the budget and making sure I had all ingredients on hand. Right now we've still got $40 in the envelope, five days left in the month, and no need for a grocery trip until February. 

The other envelopes were cake. We just didn't use them unless we really needed them. Diapers, printer ink, a haircut, dog food, some gallon freezer bags - all the expenses had a cash envelope linked to them, so we stuck to the necessities.

Rob has been hoarding his lunch money, brown bagging it for work lunches, and he's just happy as a clam, because he has pocket cash for whatever he damn well pleases. He's also very happy with the results of my micromanaging of the envelope system, which has saved us a ton of money compared to last month.

So far we've saved $400 on groceries (that's cut in HALF, my friends), $60 on work lunches, $120 on kid related expenses, $120 on entertainment/going out expenses, and $300 on all the rest. That's $1000 of savings over the course of a month. Granted, last month was exceptional in our lack of monetary discretion (between Christmas and Rob's new higher-paying job we got carried away), but the results are still astounding.

And balancing the budget is SO MUCH EASIER. I do it weekly instead of daily and not once have I panicked because the numbers on my spreadsheet don't match the numbers in my bank account. Despite my preconceived notions, it was actually much easier to handle cash than a debit and/or credit card.

Tell me, did you make any money resolutions this year? How are they going?

What I'm Reading - January Edition

I made the crazy goal on Goodreads to read 50 books this year, which is not going as smoothly as I had planned. As you can see, I'm three books in. And I am yet to be mama to a newborn again. 50 books may be a bit of a stretch for me. We'll see.

1. Pastoralia by George Saunders - This has been on my reading list for years, and Rob picked it off my long, long book list and surprised me with it for Christmas. I was not disappointed. It was laugh out loud funny paired with heart-wrenching disturbing. I love a good short story collection and this one was amazingly well crafted and memorable. It also featured the best novella I've read since The Age of Grief. (Have you read The Age of Grief? Go read it, now)

2. Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze - You all know I'm a big Dave Ramsey fan, and I'm super passionate about financial planning and goal setting. So it's only natural that I want to pass on good money sense to my kids. This book was an amazing resource of how to raise hard-working, money smart kids from a young age.

Reading through the teenage years made me wish my parents had this resource and knowledge when I was a teen. It would have totally changed the trajectory of my money decisions in my late teens and early twenties. As a parent, I can tell this book is a resource I will use for years to come.

3. Redeployment by Phil Kay - You may not know this about me, but I love a good war story. And Redeployment is good war story after good war story. It's not quite The Things They Carried (and let's face it, nothing ever will be) but it's damn good writing. The stories are a haunting and revealing portrait of the war in Iraq. It's a brilliant collection well worth your time.

Small Moments

This week sort of feels like it's stretching out into eternity with Rob halfway across the country for work. I'm getting better at dealing with the travel involved in his new job, allowing myself to roll with the punches more when I'm flying solo. I cut myself some extra slack, make sure we're all eating enough to ward away hunger rage, put things like "shower" but not "shave" on my to-do list.

Truth be told it's been a blissful kind of week. Exhausting, sure. Waking up the morning after a sleepless night to a flooded hallway because someone decided to clog the toilet before leaving for Texas was no picnic. But small disasters aside, it's been good.

Being pregnant has forced me to slow down, and I'm trying to embrace this new pace and be intentional about enjoying it. I've been sitting around doing preschool puzzles and reading books and cooking simple meals. I've been soaking in these small moments with Lucas and Avery, realizing there's nothing small about them. These are exactly the sort of tiring, simple days I'm going to long for when they're older. A total lack of volume control and building block towers and dancing to a small, specific rotation of YouTube music videos. These are the sort of moments that make me ache with nostalgia, even as I'm experiencing them.

And maybe it's because I'm not getting enough sleep, or maybe it's because I'm all baby-hormone crazy, but I've been spending these days fighting the urge to cry because I'm so goddamn grateful that this is my life right now. You wouldn't know it by talking to me or dropping in unexpectedly, because from the outside it looks like pure chaos. It looks like I'm frazzled and dying for a nap (which, okay, I probably am). But when no one's around, when it's just me and them, it's a different sort of chaos.

They're still wild, they're still loud, but they quiet my soul.

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Oven Roasted Tomato Bisque

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The weather is so gray and rainy right now. I sort of love it, actually, because it makes me want to make something warm and tasty. Something soothing and soul comforting. Like tomato soup.

It's a cruel twist of fate that tomatoes are absolutely and completely out of season during soup season, when I want nothing more than a steaming hot bowl of tomato soup with a melty grilled cheese on the side.

Tomatoes ought to just be ripe and tasty year round. I love tomatoes. Someone ought to tell the powers that be about my wish. Pray to your gods and make it so.

In the meantime, I've come up with a pretty good fix for lackluster winter tomatoes. Roasting them for a while with some onions and garlic really spruces up their flavor and makes for a robust tasting soup at any time of year.

This recipe makes a small batch but you could easily double or triple the recipe because it freezes very well.

 

Oven Roasted Tomato Bisque

serves 4

  • 2lb ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2cups (16oz) chicken broth
  • ¼  cup basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼- ½ cup heavy cream
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Cut tomatoes into wedges and place skin-side down on parchment. Evenly distribute onions and garlic over tomatoes; season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 35-40 minutes.

Transfer roasted tomatoes, onion and garlic to a large pot and add broth, basil and bay leaf. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Transfer soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree until almost smooth (I like mine with a bit more texture). Return to pot and stir in cream. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. Preferably with a tasty grilled cheese.

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Baby Notes - 21 Weeks

Me: I had a dream that the baby was a boy last night.

My Mother: I had a dream I pooped. . .a bird.

How Permanence Produces Clutter

I've never thought of myself as the sort of person who has a problem with clutter. I've always been relatively good at culling household items that don't serve me anymore. Even when we lived in a tiny studio apartment, we would regularly go through our belongings and get rid of boxes full of stuff.

Usually we'd go on these purges after watching Clean House with Niecy Nash. Did any of you ever watch that show? It's like a mild version of Hoarders with a happy makeover ending. I was totally addicted to Clean House. Moving on.

We always swore up and down that we would never allow ourselves to get buried by crap we didn't need. Back then we were moving from small apartment to small apartment whenever our leases ended. We could divvy up all our worldly belongings between my Dodge Neon and his Ford Ranger. It was a simpler time.

We've been in our grown-up house for five whole years now. And let me tell you, five years in a three bedroom house is a whole lot of time and space in which to accumulate stuff. We aren't hoarders by any means, but ever since I started my journey towards minimalism, I've been astounded by how much stuff we have. Stuff we don't need. Stuff we don't use. Stuff we don't want.

Over the past few months we've gotten rid of hundreds of items. Maybe thousands. And I find myself asking, how did we get here? How did we collect so much clutter without ever realizing it?

It's not just that we have more space to put things. In our old abodes, we knew we were always less than a year away from moving. We couldn't afford to collect too much stuff. We didn't have the time. We didn't have the space. We didn't have the option of clutter.

But now we're settled. We have two (and a half) kids. We're not going anywhere anytime soon. This sense of permanence, as lovely and comforting as it is, has given way to the slow and steady collection of clutter. It's no longer vital that we keep only the essentials. We can stretch out and cut ourselves some material slack. There's always a corner to tuck away that item we don't want to deal with right this second. Out of sight, out of mind. That's how we got here.

So in battling back the clutter as I trudge toward my minimalist ideal, I've found it is useful to go back to the mindset of our earlier years together. What if we were moving in a month? What would we really want to keep? What would I lug across the world to put in a new home? What items really add value and meaning to my life?

Turns out, not many items make the cut. Not nearly as many as I have.

It's a...

So we had the big exciting 20 week ultrasound last week. It's always my favorite appointment of the pregnancy, where the baby really looks like a baby (or in this photo's case, a more disconcerting alien fetus). And you know, you get to find out whether you're having a girl child or man cub.

Cut to the chase already, right?

It's a...

...

...

...

surprise!

I know, man, what a letdown. Sorry for leading you on like that. You'll just have to bear with me until birth day to find out the most fantastic surprise in the world. Try not to let the anticipation kill you in the meantime. I'll do the same.

xoxo

Recipe: Cranberry Orange Muffins

I love a good muffin in the morning, don't you? My kids sure do. Or at least Lucas does. Avery likes picking berries or nuts of chocolate chips or what-have-you out of muffins and leaving the delicious carby, cakey leftovers on her plate. She lives on air and mischief and bits of fruit, that girl.

But anyway, back to the muffins. I've been trying, as of late, to be the kind of mom who makes a real breakfast most mornings. I count oatmeal as a real breakfast, just so you know. But I try to pull out the big guns, like muffins and pancakes, once or twice a week as well. Baked goods just start the morning on a nice note, you know?

I favor these muffins in the winter, when cranberries and oranges are cheap and in abundance at the grocery store. The ones pictured here have dried cranberries, because I'm not always the best planner, but trust me, the real cranberries are worth the hassle if you can get them. They give that nice bright pop of flavor and color that will put a spark in your winter morning. Or something like that.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

makes 12

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries, chopped (or 1 cup dried)

Preheat oven to 375F, line a standard muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, zest, juice, eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir into flour mixture just until combined. Fold in cranberries.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 22-25 minutes. Cool for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

The Girl Behind The Blog

Coming back to this blog, recommitting myself to talking endlessly to whoever may or may not be listening, was not an easy choice for me. I've had a big love/hate relationship with blogging for a while now. You can ask my blogging friends how many times I've used the term "love/hate relationship with blogging" over the course of many soul-searching e-mails over the last six months. I have most certainly lost track. 

And like I said before, part of it was trying, constantly, to be someone I wasn't. I was concerned, as many people told me I should be, with "branding" myself. I needed to package myself a certain way, fall within the confines of a certain box. I could pick the size and shape and color of my box, but at the end of the day, it was still a box. I'd still run into a wall sooner or later.

So in coming back, I decided that if I was going to become serious and fall in love with this space as I have always longed to, I would have to put away my various boxes. I came back with the caveat that I would have to be constantly and authentically and radically myself. No more branding. No more business first, me second.

I want this space to make me happy. I want it to make you happy too. Maybe someday it will make an advertiser or two happy (or maybe not). But I want it to be my happy place first.

So I'm not going to pretend to be the crafty mama who is constantly roaming Pinterest, because I make approximately one craft per 4-6 months and pat myself on the back for weeks afterwards. I'm not going to pretend that I am super edgy and cool and artsy, because I am hopelessly uncool and not the awesome photographer I imagine myself to be in my head. I'm done trying to fit under the mom blogging type, because I'm so much more than a mother. I'm not going to share my inspiring fitness story with photos of my increasingly rock-hard abs (not that that was ever in the cards, but I've thought longingly of becoming the next Maria Kang from time to time).

And while I may share some tips and tricks I've found in this short romp in adulthood, I'm not going to pretend to be the expert anymore. I don't have this mothering thing figured out. I'm still working out how to keep my house somewhat clean while still keeping everyone fed and at least partially clothed and while still finding time to write and figure myself out. I mean, what am I, a magician? I even make food that sucks sometimes. Ask my husband about the crockpot chicken teriyaki that will haunt us for eternity. Everything in my life is a constant work in progress.

I'd say I spend pretty much all of my life in a 30/70 ratio of things that I feel I am rocking and things that are a complete, unsolved mess. Some days the ratios switch, and I am an all-star. Some days are 40/60 or 60/40. And that's okay. I'm just happy I have any part of the equation figured out at any given time. Maths is hard. And so is life.

So this is me, stepping out from behind the curtain. I'm currently wearing sweatpants, my pregnant belly is hanging from beneath a baggy midriff, and I'm drinking water from a mug because it's the only way I can trick myself into drinking the recommended amount of water each day. Cheers to me.

Starting My Minimalist Journey

I stumbled across the idea of minimalism while clicking through TED Talks (one of my favorite pastimes). I watched Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus' TEDx talk while I organized the contents of my desk junk drawer. I let it replay as I moved on to my kitchen junk drawer, then the kitchen cabinets. I perused their blog writings on The Minimalists between filling boxes to donate to Goodwill. It was one of those evenings when I was just in the mood for a good purge.

I get that way sometimes. I want to clean and purge, clean and purge. But this time was different. The notion of minimalism sparked a fire within me. I wanted to get rid of all the things, all the material excess, that was weighing me down. I wanted a life of more with less.

So I began to go through my belongings with a new sense of ruthlessness. Each item I came across in the coming weeks was subject to a greater level of scrutiny. Did I use it often? Did I love it deeply? Could I, should I, live without it?

Now, what started out as an evening of decluttering has turned into a journey towards minimalism. A shift towards a more purposefully curated home and intentionally motivated life. Already I've felt the shift in my life that pursuing minimalism has given me. I feel a sense of abundance, even over-abundance in my life. I want for very little. I am happy with what I already have. Each possession i relinquish brings a new lightness to my life.

I'm still not sure what minimalism will ultimately look like for me. It certainly won't look like Millburn's beautifully minimalist abode, or this family's zen wonderland. But I'm committing myself to an all-in attitude towards minimalism over the course of the next year, and I'm excited to see where it leads me.

Stay tuned for more posts about the details of my minimalist journey as I move from space to space, ridding myself of any and everything that doesn't add value to my life.

Get Mortified: Another New Year's Resolution

Yes, THAT IS A GLITTERY ACID WASHED DENIM DIARY BEDAZZLED WITH A BUTTERFLY PENDANT. IT'S OKAY TO FEEL JEALOUS.

Yes, THAT IS A GLITTERY ACID WASHED DENIM DIARY BEDAZZLED WITH A BUTTERFLY PENDANT. IT'S OKAY TO FEEL JEALOUS.

If any of you have Netflix, and have not yet done so, go watch the documentary Mortified Nation right this second. Seriously, you will laugh so hard you cry. Then, if you're anything like me, you will dig out your old diaries and start reading them aloud as dramatic monologues.

You probably won't do that, but that's exactly what I did.

I put performing at a Mortified Live event on my life list, dug out a plethora of old journals, and decided right then and there to read aloud to my husband an entry which started:

"You know that Christina Aguilera song Reflection? It is so true to my life right now..."

Even if you don't have the urge to dredge up humiliating middle school writings for public performance, if you ever kept a journal this documentary will surely make you want to revisit your secret childhood ruminations.

I was quite amused to find I categorized my journal entries with notes in the top corner indicating the subject matter of my writings. Categories such as: Seth and Reasons I Like Him or Feelings: School Rules (which should have had the subcategory of Young Feminist Rants) or Top Secrets.

Top Secrets is a wildly overstated category in which I reveal such dramas as that one time I fell down on the blacktop and Brendon Welcker helped me up, and held onto my hand a little too long, and it clearly was a sign of his undying love for me. A similar incident had apparently occurred with Travis Peters. I was pretty irresistible, the written records show.

I kept a regular diary from the age of 12 until I left for college at 18. That's six years worth of pubescent drama, ripe and ready for the stage. I figure performing at a Mortified Live event will be a good first step toward my goal of someday performing standup. Remember how I confessed my weird desire to perform standup that one time? Yeah. That.

So I'd love to know, did you ever keep a journal? Would you ever consider reading some of those embarrassing writings aloud on stage?