Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sadie's First Big Girl Sewing Project!

We did a moderately mediocre job of sticking to a low-key Christmas.  While we had fewer gifts than normal, there were more BIG gifts than we usually do.  This year, Sadie's biggest (and most favorite) gift was her first sewing machine.  It's the one thing she had been asking for...Santa is very smart. :)

I am SO GLAD Santa paid a little ok...a lot extra and got the Janome Hello Kitty sewing machine.  The stitch speed is perfect for her as a beginner, it's easy to thread, and it is a seriously solid little machine.  I could easily sew something substantial on it.  My only complaint is that it doesn't have a drop-in bobbin.  I actually thought that was going to be a major issue, but so far, she hasn't had a problem with it.

Side note:  This machine beats the pants off the other beginner machines I've seen.  Also, for the love of Pete, PLEASE don't get one of those $29.99 Singer machines.  I almost got sucked in (because, "hey!  $29.99!"), but read the reviews before you make the purchase.  Those suckers don't sew anything.  They're a toy.  If you want a toy for a 3 year old to get her (or him) interested in the idea of a sewing machine, maybe that would be the right purchase, but if you're purchasing for a kid who is genuinely ready to start sewing small projects, spend more and get a real can find real beginner machines at a good price.  

In case you're in the market, here's why I'd choose this one...
 - multiple useful stitch functions
 - reverse stitch
 - easy to thread
 - slow-enough stitch speed (which fluctuates with pedal pressure just like it should)
 - great accessories including extra bobbins and a cover
 - simple, easy to use design...if you've ever used a machine, you can figure this one out

 - Front load bobbin (although this is turning out not to be a problem)

She has been learning to turn her machine on, thread her needle, wind and insert her bobbin, raise and lower the presser foot, turn the hand wheel, and troubleshoot.  She also knows all the names for the parts of her machine since she's been insisting that we practice with it.  I seriously can't tell you what it does for my heart when my daughter talks about "lowering the presser foot."  She's been practicing stitching lines (not straight lines, but lines just the same), and she's been working on putting pieces of fabric together with the wrong sides out so that she can make a pretty seam.

Tonight, she decided she was ready to tackle a bigger project, so she asked me if I would help her sew something for her daddy (teehee).  We had to start small, so with some fabric that she had picked out at the store (NCSU fabric, of course),  we set to making a drawstring bag "for Daddy to put Wolfpack things in!"

Very often, I'm stupid by accident, but every now and then, I accidentally do something right.  Tonight, happened to be one of the nights I guessed right.  We set up a little table, and I placed our sewing machines side-by-side.  After she chose her thread and got her machine all set up, she and I took similar cuts of fabric and I showed her on my machine (using my fabric) a step-by-step tutorial for a draw string bag.  We did all the steps together.  It was magical.  She did AMAZING.  When she was all done, we only had to go back and fix two things - a hole she accidentally snipped when she got a little scissor happy with some strings, and a seam that wasn't quite finished.  Otherwise, as a completely biased observer, I can confidently say that she did a fabulous job on Daddy's drawstring bag...don't you think so?

I'm really glad we decided to do this as a starter project.  It has a lot of basic, but necessary, skills used in sewing, and it is a really quick project, so she was able to see her results within 15 minutes.  Perfect confidence booster for a beginning sewer - she's so proud of it!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Errant Thought Roundup 64

I love, I love, I hate, I hate,
I like, I wish, for goodness sake...
I hope, I hope, I pray, I pray,
I will, I won't, and for today...

I love watching Sadie socialize with other children.  She's still an introvert, but sometimes she apparently finds herself in her element.  It's the best.

I love answered prayers.  So many this week.

I hate being forced into things and being put on the spot.  Now I understand what my mom was saying about getting "put on the spot" when I was younger.  It's not good, kids.  Don't do it to people. (Sorry, mom.)

I hate how exhausted I've been.  I'm NOT a sleeper - what's the matter with me??

I like sharing joy with my friends.  It's hard to be sad alone, and it's hard to be joyful alone...we were created for community.

I wish you could have seen Sadie's face when she gave me the Christmas present she picked out for me this year.  She was so proud to give it to me that she was barely able to keep it a was my favorite present this year (and well worth the $1.25 if I do say so myself).

For goodness sake, can someone please remind me to have grace.  I'm so angry right now, my head is spinning.  I am angry about something really silly, but sometimes you can't help it.

I hope my grandfather is ok.  He was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.  He seems to be doing ok, but I'm still a little concerned.  Here's a pic of us from this week - pre-pneumonia...he's kind of my favorite.  Prayers are appreciated.

I hope it doesn't always take this long to blog.  I'm blogging from a transformer tablet.  It has a keyboard, so I'm not having to peck at a screen, but I'm finding that the process is taking some time.  Hopefully that's just the learning curve and not some horrible indication that I'm going to have to stay on a laptop forever.

I pray for continued miracles.  We don't deserve the ones we've been given, but that won't stop me for praying for more.

I pray with gratitude for the job opportunity I have just been given.  Details forthcoming...I think it's gonna be awesome.

I will try not to let my negative emotions show on my face.  HA!

I won't begrudge others an easy road where mine has been painful (and I won't forget to be thankful for my easy road when I see how difficult someone else's has been).

And for today...what do you get when you keep your 5 year old up WAY past her bedtime?  A photo that she will hate you for in 10 years...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cantique de Noel

According to Wikipedia, "O, Holy Night" is a re-rendering of a French poem written in the early 1800's by Placide Cappeau.

"O, Holy Night" never loses it's magic (at least for me), but if you find yourself singing it without thinking about the meaning behind it, this literal translation of the original poem should give you something fresh to sing about this gives me goose bumps every time.

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God as man descended unto us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.
People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!
May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
The Redeemer has broken every bond:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!

Truly miraculous events have defined Christmas 2012 for our family.  We are celebrating multiple miracles this Christmas - I'd love to tell you about them (but not tonight!).

Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas to your family.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Poor Frosty...

Beside my daughter's elementary school, there is a house.
In front of the house, there is a tree.
Swinging lifelessly from the tree is...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Please Help a Young Mom This Christmas!!

Hi Friends - I was recently sent an email by my friend Tiffany.  If you are a mom, this will speak to your heart.   Please, please, please consider making a donation of a diaper or two this Christmas - you can purchase them for as little as $1, and there is a LOT of need. It's have a dollar in your bank account right for a mom and baby who could use some help, right?

Here are the details you need to know...Tiffany makes it easy for us!

PLEASE NOTE:  This is an independent effort to support a local pregnancy center and *not* an official pregnancy center fund raising project.  100% of your donation will go toward supplies for new moms, not toward the pregnancy center.

Dear Family and Friends,

I am very excited about a project that I am working on this Christmas.  I usually avoid sending mass emails, but the need is greater than what I am able to do by myself.  So, I am hoping that God would use some of you to join with me and make this project hugely successful.
In a nutshell:  I have the opportunity in a few weeks to teach a class at our local pregnancy care center on cloth diapering.  I have used cloth diapers very successfully with Little Tommy and I am excited to be able to teach this skill to a group of young moms.  Many of these moms have limited financial resources and cloth diapering has the potential to provide a significant savings for them.  It would also give them an opportunity to be self-sufficient so that they won't need to rely on someone else to provide the next pack of disposable diapers.  The main obstacle for many of these moms would be purchasing their starter set of diapers...both the financial cost and also figuring out what items to buy.  I have some things that I plan to donate but it won't be nearly enough to meet the need.  I wondered if anyone else might be interested in donating a cloth diaper to this ministry?  The most basic diaper is only $1 with free shipping!   As a perk, any donation is also tax-deductible.
There are thousands of worthy causes this Christmas and your dollars may already be dedicated to another cause; however, if you feel led to make a diaper donation, all of the details are below.  It can be done online in as little as 10 minutes.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!  I would also greatly appreciate your prayers as we seek to share God's love by providing for these physical needs!!
Thank you for listening and for your consideration!

Merry Christmas!

**How To Donate**
I set up a wishlist on Amazon with the items that are needed most.  It can be viewed at:  The far right column of the list indicates the sizes and quantities that we need.  Feel free to pick any color and that way we will have a nice variety, just don't choose white covers because they will accidentally get thrown in the dryer with the prefolds and ruined.  Items on the list range in price from $1 to $18. Items sold by Amazon are available with free shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member and items from the CottonBabies website are available with free shipping regardless of the purchase price (no membership required).   All items purchased through the wishlist will be shipped to my house automatically so that I can organize them into starter kits and deliver them to the pregnancy care center.  If anyone has cloth diapers that they no longer need, we would gladly accept any style of used diapers as well!!  I would be glad to pick them up from anyone in the Lenoir or Chattanooga areas.
**Time Frame**
To have them available for the moms attending the cloth diapering class, please purchase your item(s) by Thursday, December 27.  However, the center gets new clients every week so this will be an ongoing need.  Donations at any time would be greatly appreciated and will certainly be used!
**Tax Deduction**
The Caldwell Pregnancy Care Center is a non-profit ministry and all donations are tax-deductible.  If you would like a receipt acknowledging your donation, please send me an email requesting a receipt and I will email one to you.  Please note that the center does not put a dollar amount on the receipt so it will simply read "Cloth Diaper Supplies".  You may want to keep a copy of your Amazon receipt showing the dollar amount to pair with the donation acknowledgement that you receive from the pregnancy center.

If you are short on time, you have read enough to know everything that you need to know.  If you want more details, keep reading.

**Personal Notes**
 If you would like to write a personal note of encouragement to the person receiving your donation, simply email your note to me before New Years Day.  It can be as long or as short as you like.  I will combine all of the notes (without names) and provide each mom with a copy of the letter when she gets her new diapers.  It is my hope that this will reinforce in her mind that God used a real person (you!) to provide for her need and that it might encourage her to begin trusting him to provide for her other needs as well.
**How the Ministry Works**
The Caldwell Pregnancy Care Center is a ministry that provides for women in the community who are pregnant or who have a baby under 6 months old.  Many of them are young (17-22 yrs) and do not have a lot of financial or family support.  They come to the center for a 1-hour appointment every week where they meet one-on-one with a volunteer counselor.  During those appointments they learn about prenatal development, what to expect while pregnant and during delivery, newborn care and parenting.  In addition to learning how to be good moms...and perhaps even more importantly...they also do bible studies and learn about Jesus and his love for them and for their baby.  The center also holds group classes once a month on different topics, such as this one in January on cloth diapering.  Each time the moms come to an individual appointment or group class, they earn vouchers that can be used to "purchase" items such as diapers, baby clothes, cribs, strollers, etc.  (If the dads attend, they receive additional vouchers.)  The item(s) that you donate would be available for "purchase" using vouchers that they earned by faithfully keeping their appointments.  I'm very excited that a one-time "purchase" of cloth diapers would allow these ladies to save the vouchers that they would be spending week after week on disposables so that they could get a crib or highchair or something else that they truly need for their baby.  For more information about the services that the pregnancy center offers, please visit:
**Starter Kits**
To give you an idea of what each mom would need, a typical starter kit would include the following items: (All of these items are listed on the Amazon wishlist with links for purchasing.)
   1 bottle of diaper-safe laundry soap
   1 washable diaper pail liner
   2 Thirsties Duo-Wrap covers
   12 flat prefold diapers
   1 fitted workhorse diaper
   1 pack of Grovia wipes
   3 Thirsties wipes

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just When I Thought I Was Over The Elf...

Last night, Spritz (Sadie's elf) wrote her a little note to find this morning.  It simply said, "Good morning, Sadie!"

Tonight, when I went into her room, I found this note sitting right beside her little elf...

In case you don't know how to read 5-year-old...this says, "Dear Spritz, You are the best elf.  Love, Sadie"

Maybe the elf isn't so bad after all. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Errant Thought Roundup 63

I love, I love, I hate, I hate,
I like, I wish, for goodness sake...
I hope, I hope, I pray, I pray,
I will, I won't, and for today...

I love that I survived this day.  Eric almost had a warrant out for his arrest (because he was summoned for jury duty in Pennsylvania and we forgot to get it excused).  Sadie almost got suspended from kindergarten (because Pennsylvania's health assessment isn't "good enough" for the state of NC -- do you hear my bitterness?).  And the Physicians Assistant who did Sadie's State of NC health assessment had me worried out of my head for 5 hours about a possible problem with Sadie, which (thank you, Jesus) turned out to be nothing at all.
It's flu season...don't knock the mask.

I love that Sadie and I got to go to Moe's together today, and then Eric and I got to go to Moe's tonight.  I got to go to Moe's twice today...and neither of them know I went with the other one! So don't tell them because then they'll know I have a problem.

I hate hearing people judge others based on their dialect.  I heard someone call out a person for saying "I done [did something]," the other day, and then in the next conversation, THAT SAME GUY forgot the plural of the word "foot."  Judge not, yeah?  Don't forget that language changes...what is correct today may be completely incorrect in 100 years...people who speak differently from us may just be ahead of the curve. The same people who preach against legalism have no problem being legalistic about language.  It's the craziest thing I ever saw.

I hate pretentiousness.  And I'm allowed to hate it because I am on the long journey of trying to recover from pretentiousness, myself.  Attempting to impress others through affectation is an addiction.  You are allowed to hate something even if you're guilty of it.  Watch me.

I like competent doctors.  I have had to deal a LOT with doctors this month, and the good ones give me such peace of mind.

I wish we had never started Elf on the Shelf.  It is a lot of effort for little return, and I am just not a high enough elf-achiever to make it fun, but my perfectionism kicks in after Sadie wakes up in the morning and it's too late to do anything awesome.  Now the stupid elf is stuck with us.  Grr.

For goodness sake, I don't know what has come over me, but I'm suddenly a fan of sleeve tattoos.  DON'T WORRY, MOM...I'm not getting one, but I think they're really neat-o.  Like this one...

I hope Sadie never gets tired of going on dates with me.  She is the coolest thing I ever did.

I hope I get a cover for my Kindle for Christmas.  I know I'm trying to minimize, but I think a scratch-proof Kindle would be a wise investment.

I pray for my dear friend, for a very special baby boy, and for peace in a very uncertain all works out the way it's supposed to in the end, but we should catalyze the "good" with prayer.

I pray with gratitude for my favorite miracle in a very long time...the birth of a precious baby girl to a friend who, 9 months ago, didn't know if she would be able to have children.

I will have to tell you about my job interviews.  Four potential places, and they all look amazing.

I won't will attempt to refrain from making road rage-ish and/or snarky comments to drivers who can't hear me anyway for the rest of the month.  I've noticed that I say things like, "anytime, sweetheart" and "where did you get that fabulous invisible turn signal?"  and "oh, you like my lane, too?" on a much more recurrent basis than is probably becoming...and it's Christmas.  If I want people to give me a break for being a stupid driver, I should probably do the same for others.  Come January, though, it's back on, kids!

And for today, the learning-to-read stage has been my favorite so far.  Sadie was reading greeting cards to me today at Target, and she picked out her Grandpa's birthday card all by herself (because she liked what it said!).  I was beaming at her with motherly pride when she picked up the card with the cute cartoon spoon and fork on the front, opened it up, and read, "Spooning leads to forking" on the inside.  If I don't win Mother of the Year, the contest is rigged.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Minimizing and Simplifying in 2013 - Part III

I've been talking for two days about my plan to minimize and simplify my life a little in 2013.

You can catch up by reading the previous two posts in this series:
Minimizing and Simplifying in 2013 - Part I
Minimizing and Simplifying in 2013 - Part II

I have a month-by-month plan to execute (and maintain) minimalism, simplicity, and frugality in 2013.  I may get some things done early, I may get some things done late, I may not get some things done at all.  What's cool about that is that I have learned to have a little grace for myself when I don't meet my expectations (because Lord knows I rarely do).  Assuming that everything goes according to plan, though, here are my goals listed out by month:

JANUARY- Donate/give away/sell 1/2 the clothes currently in my closet.  I donated a TON of clothes before we left Pennsylvania.  Probably about 30% of my clothing.  Despite that, when we got to NC, I counted (because I'm neurotic) 145 hangers worth of hanging things in my closet.  That may not sound like a lot to you, or it may sound like an inordinate number, but it seemed ridiculous to me and for my lifestyle...especially since I have a few key pieces in my closet that I wear at least once a week.  I noticed that I owned quite a few things that I wore once a year or once a quarter or worse...never (but I kept them because they were gifts or I had paid a lot of money for them).  Even if I wear things once a quarter, that's just four days a year.  Don't you think I could find something else those four days?  I think 75 hangers will be perfect for me.  That's my goal.

FEBRUARY- Own 15 pairs of shoes.  I currently own 24 pairs.  Again, some people think that's insane and indulgent, and others think, "omg, I have 376 pairs and I still need more."  I think 15 pairs will be a reasonable amount for my lifestyle.  Maybe 376 pairs is reasonable for yours...maybe you have a lot more feet than the rest of us.  Just kidding.  My goal is to own better quality, more versatile shoes with better longevity, and fewer disposable shoes (i.e., $9 Payless specials), which means I can think of several pairs right off the top of my head that need to go.

MARCH A month without purchasing.  Of course we'll have to purchase, toiletries, gasoline, etc., and of course we'll have to pay our bills, but I want March to be a challenge to myself and my family to not buy any new clothes, not to go out to eat, not to buy anything that lacks function, and not to purchase entertainment.  In April, we'll go back to making discretionary purchases as we see fit, but hopefully our March exercise in frugality will teach us some important things about our spending habits.

APRIL - Unsubscribe from magazines, catalogues, and junk mail lists (electronic and physical).  Any content I get from these magazines and catalogues, I can get online.  Their sole purpose is to convince me to buy things I don't need...they look pretty, but I don't need them.  Also, who wants to have a counter top full of junk mail?  I can get all the same images, pricing, etc. online...I'll just do it that way.

MAY Ride a bike to anywhere less than a mile away.  This is going to be ridiculously hard for me for three reasons:  I'm a wuss, I love air conditioning, and I hate exercise.  I already dread May, but I think it will be good for me, so once again, out of obligation, I'm trying to do something good.  Don't you feel like sometimes when you obligate yourself to something, your heart and mind eventually catch up?

JUNE - A month without television.  I know some of y'all have done this before...some of you may not even own televisions.  We own one TV (we used to have THREE!  That's a downsize, right?!), and we always manage to agree (or agree to disagree) on what to watch.  Regardless, I think our family could benefit from living like Laura Ingalls Wilder for a little while.  I mean...not the ball-made-out-of-a-pig's-bladder kind of Laura Ingalls Wilder, just the be-able-to-entertain-yourself-without-a-TV kind of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In June, I'd like to flip the TV off and not turn it on again until July.  My husband is a big boy - if he wants to watch TV, that's up to him...this is really just for me and Sadie.  Additionally, I'd like to cut my other screen time to one hour per day in June.  That might mean less blogging.  That also might mean that if I get an email from you, it will take me a little while to respond.

JULY - Get rid of furniture.  This one is flexible depending on when we get a place of our own...sometime after Eric graduates.  Here's a list of all the furniture we currently own:
  • Writing desk with hutch
  • Antique school desk chair
  • Kitchen table with 6 chairs
  • Two small footstools/step stools
  • Loft bed
  • Glider rocking chair
  • Three Sadie bookshelves
  • Chest of drawers
  • Dresser
  • Convertible baby crib
  • changing table top
  • Sofa
  • Reclining chair
  • Sadie lounge chair
  • Two end tables
  • Three living room bookshelves
  • Catch-all/Console table
  • Television console
  • Queen sized bed frame/headboard/foot board/mattress/box springs
  • Bedroom bookshelf
  • Chest of drawers
  • Dresser with mirror
  • Small stool/ottoman
  • Night Stand
  • Wire Rack
  • Large Ottoman
  • Antique high chair
Honestly, that doesn't seem like a huge amount of furniture to me.  We have lived in small spaces for so long that we're used to having less furniture than most households, but there are things we don't really need.  Here's what I'd like to sell or give away:
  • Glider rocking chair
  • One Sadie bookshelf
  • Sadie Chest of drawers
  • Baby crib
  • Changing table top
  • One end table
  • Reclining chair (replace with something smaller)
  • Night stand (replace or convert to one drawer/one bookshelf)
I want to put the antique high chair in storage.

This is a 20% downsize in our furniture.  I'm good with that.

AUGUST - Clean out the kitchen and get rid of all superfluous multiples of things like pots, pans, Tupperware, glassware, extra flower vases, maybe even get rid of a few place settings, and *certainly* get rid of the china that we will never ever use.

SEPTEMBER - Go through the linen closet and get rid of multiples like bed sheets, towels, and blankets.  Keep just what's necessary.  Ideally I'd like to own:
  • 10 sets of towels and wash cloths
  • 4 hand towels
  • 2 sets of sheets for each bed
  • 4 spare blankets
  • 2 spare pillows with one case each
I am mindful that these are things that some people may never own and that my "downsized" portions may seem like luxury to someone else.  I'm also mindful that some people would look at this list and immediately sign me up to receive donations from The Salvation Army.  The dichotomies of this world...they're fun, aren't they?

OCTOBER -  Finish a quilt for myself.  Quilting is therapeutic, useful, beautiful, and frugal (you know...once you get past the "paying for supplies" thing).  I hear that quilters never have a quilt for themselves because they're so busy making them for others.  I'd really to make and keep just one.

NOVEMBER - Decorate minimally, simply, and frugally with unobtrusive (inexpensive) decor that won't have to be tossed in the garbage one day.  No billions of blinking lights, no figurines, no switching out linens for "The Christmas ones."   I don't know how this is going to take shape for us, but here's my vision at this moment (which will likely change dramatically over the course of a year):
  • A seasonal fragrance - orange peel, vanilla, cinnamon, all spice, lavender, pine cones, thyme, cloves...
  • A seasonal bouquet of flowers
  • A simple, natural wreath or Thanksgiving/Christmas swag
  • A real tree decorated with found or made ornaments.
  • Christmas music
  • A simple nativity - stay tuned...this might be a craft.
Once again, let me reiterate:  If you or someone you know LOVES to decorate for Christmas with linens and figurines and lights and fragrances and the whole nine yards, I think that is spectacular.  There is something about Christmas decorations that make a home seem warm and cozy, lived-in and loved.  I can fully appreciate that we all deal with the various tuggings of our hearts in different ways.  If people don't get upset with me for minimizing my Christmas decor, I won't get upset with them for maximizing theirs.

DECEMBER - Adhere to the 4 gift rule and *explain* it to Sadie.  After a year of frugality, she will likely understand this much better than any grown-up would.  This goal isn't about depriving Sadie of a wonderful Christmas, it's about giving her a meaningful one.  She is so appreciative of gifts, and she is not a counter of things.  In fact, she loves telling people one of our favorite family mottoes, "Things don't matter...people matter."  She doesn't pitch a fit when she can't have something, and she doesn't get bent out of shape when a toy breaks or gets lost.  I think this will be a wonderful new tradition for our family.
(via pinterest)

I know this simplicity phase of my life won't last forever, but I hope the exercise of attempting to clean out the extra stuff in my life will teach me a lot about needs vs. wants, I hope I will have improved spending discretion, and I hope that I will find that it is much easier to give when you force yourself to make it a priority for a while.

Things change, people change, ideas other words, this list may change over the course of the year, but right now I'm really happy with it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Minimzing and Simplifying in 2013 - Part II

Yesterday I told you I have a plan to minimize and simplify my life in 2013.

If you haven't yet read Part I, you'll be a lot less confused if you get caught's the link:
Minimizing and Simplifying in 2013 - Part I

I have a month-by-month list of goals, but before I get to those, I think it's important to reiterate that what works for me (or you) may not work for the rest of the world.  We're all just doing the best we can with what we have been given, right?

Here's how I see the concepts of the goals I have:

Minimalism - to me, this isn't just de-cluttering.  It's really getting down to defining necessities in my life and evaluating purchases based on their functionality (in addition to form, of course...I do still like pretty things).  I want to get rid of things that are rarely or never used, and I want to make it a point to use discretion when I add a new thing to my home instead of blindly assuming that every convenience item is a "must have" -- they rarely are, you know.
My critical minimalism question for 2013: Does it have a function in my life?  If not, I should really think about why it has a place in my home.

Simplicity - simplicity is the opposite of complication, right?   Busy, chaotic, and frenetic are not words I want to use to describe my relationships, my food, my clothes, my house...I'd like 2013 to be a year about the basics.  There are gizmos and gadgets that are designed to uncomplicate tasks, but I don't want them because the ownership of a whisk that is designed expressly for the use of whisking eggs makes me go "hmm."  My regular whisk will probably work for egg whisking, don't you think?  Simplicity means paring down.  When in doubt, I'll ask myself, "Would Mamaw Tessie have used/done/purchased this?"  Or, alternatively:  WWMTD?  :)
My critical simplicity question for 2013: Does it add chaos and complication to my life?  If so, I want to think about what the benefit of this added chaos would be, if any.

Frugality - I don't think this necessarily means buying the cheapest of everything.  That's what I used to think, but now I'd like to redefine it.  I think frugality means spending money in the wisest way possible.  It means getting the best quality items in our budget so that we aren't spending money on "disposable" clothes, household items, etc.  This also means not buying a new item when an old (or existing) one will suffice. It means getting creative when when we can.  Don't throw it away, repair it!  Don't replace it if it's not broken.  If it's ugly, find a way to pretty-it-up without breaking the bank.  Frugality is the reason Eric's car has a tape deck.  It's called "making do with what you have," and as Americans (myself obviously included), we're very unfamiliar with this concept because replacement items are so readily available and usually pretty cheap.  Sometimes it's better to reevaluate your purchases and just use what you have for a little your grandmother did.
My critical frugality question for 2013: How could I continue living without [fill in the blank]?  If I can come up with a satisfactory way to live without "thing x," then I want to consider (or reconsider) whether or not it has a place in my life.


There are a lot of areas in my life that require a little bit of paring down.  Some of the things I'd like to move toward simplicity are:

My home.
I want a calm, peaceful, un-cluttered, reduced-stress home.

My relationships.
I want to be able to pour into people the way that I have been poured into.  I want to simplify important areas of my life so that I can have time for "uncomplicated" relationships.  I don't want to "right-fight."  I want to prove that my relationships are more important to me than my constant need to win small battles.  I want to deliver grace to others from a cistern that never runs dry.

My clothing.
I'd like to own fewer pieces that are great quality rather than an entire closet full of semi-disposable clothing.  I will always have more clothes than many people on this planet.  I will always have fewer clothes than many people on this planet.  My goal is to have a reasonable amount for my lifestyle...not to compete with anyone.

My food.
Our family is already eating clean - we've been doing it since February.  Still, I'd like to increase the amount of food we buy from farmer's markets and cut out even more "junk" from our fridge and pantry.  Cheap food is almost always unhealthy.  Convenience food is almost always unhealthy.  I just want real, simple food on my table.

None of these things will actually happen at 100%, but if I get to 80% that's something, right?

In a break and reversal from my former aspirations (which included owning a house about 4 times the size of the one I grew up in - seriously), I am suddenly turned off by the idea that life is about acquiring as much as you can before you die. What impact does that have?  What legacy would I leave if that was my goal?  I don't want my life to be defined by my ability to buy a house that's bigger than yours, or a fancy car, or a closet full of designer labels.

Hear me:  There is nothing wrong with owning a big house.  There is nothing wrong with owning a fancy car.  There is nothing wrong with designer clothes.  And there's nothing wrong with the myriad of other things you or I may own now or in the future.  The problem isn't with the things in and of themselves.  The problem arises when I see myself starting to do comparison checks to see how I measure up against my friends, my family, and complete strangers.  And, boy, have I been guilty of that.  Put your measuring tape AWAY.  You're already good enough.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart" (Job 1:21).

My vision for my family in 2013 is less chaos and more peace, less stuff and more substance, less getting and more giving.

Check back tomorrow for my month-by-month list of goals to simplify life in 2013.  I'm so excited!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Minimizing and Simplifying in 2013 - Part I

It all started the day I realized that we own two turkey basters.

Wait...let me back up for a didn't actually start with the turkey basters.  I'll get to those in a minute.  It actually started at some indefinite point in the past - probably around 5 years ago - when I profoundly realized that more stuff = more dusting.  Yes, friends, it was the worthy goal of  "having less stuff to dust" that sent me on this spiral toward less.  "If you give a mouse a cookie...he's probably going to ask for a glass of milk."  I'm the mouse.  If you have known me for any length of time, then you know that when an idea pops into my head, there is a domino effect of ideas that eventually either come full circle or culminate in some slightly-better-defined notion than the original thought.  Let me explain how this relates to simplicity and minimalism:

I have been telling my friends and family that I am "trending toward minimalism."  As soon as they realize that I didn't say animalism, they are probably relieved.  And then they probably don't believe that I could live minimally - especially since I have been known to be the tchotchky queen in my past life (a.k.a., 2004).  If it looked like something out of a Kirkland's catalogue and had no function other than sitting on a shelf collecting dust and looking pretty, well then, "yes, please - I'll take one in each color!"  Stuff mattered a lot to me back then.  Why??  For the same reason it matters to a lot of people:  more stuff is the product of more success.  Successful people have a lot of stuff, right?  Our first apartment the year we got married was filled top to bottom with floral window treatments, and drawer tassels, and finials, and book ends, and shelves full of nothing useful was a sight to behold.  A vision in chintz and dust bunnies with the ambiguous smell of an orchestra of Glade plug-ins.

Over the course of our marriage (eight blissfully, unpredictably wonderful years), I have gradually begun to shed my life (and therefore, our home) of things.  Prior to moving to Pennsylvania three years ago, we had a yard sale where we got rid of fully 40% of what we owned...stuff I had absolutely no attachment to other than just the pleasure of owning it.  Junk.  Crap.  Things that belonged on an episode of hoarders. (I'm not saying it was disorganized, I'm just saying it was superfluous). How many sets of bedding does one household need, anyway?  JEEZ!

We moved up the east coast, and I realized something:  Releasing "things" is a freeing, even euphoric experience.  I started getting excited about letting things go instead of getting excited about collecting more. We ended up bagging up a TON of extra stuff for Goodwill, and we continued the trend until last month when we moved back to North Carolina.  We have been getting rid of things for 3 years now.  Mass-produced artwork, spare candles, all but 10 of our 2098938798734 pens.  Lovely pens, but really?

When we started packing for North Carolina, I suddenly had a flash of realization:  We owned two turkey basters.  We baste turkey once a year, for goodness sake.  I don't know if you're aware of this, but turkey basting requires only one baster.  Why (why, why, why, why) did we need TWO turkey basters?  I was so affronted by the fact that we owned two turkey basters that I started classifying our household belongings into a complex list of other (in my opinion) ridiculous things we own(ed) multiples of:

  • Three whisks
  • Two wooden forks
  • A million and three oven mitts - two hands.  
  • A 4-slice toaster - we're Paleo.  We don't really eat bread anymore...and even if we did, don't you think we could wait for 3 minutes for our piece of toast?  We're pretty patient people.
  • Four sets of queen sheets - ONE queen size bed  
  • Identical cleaning supplies in 3 different rooms
  • Maternity clothes from 6 years ago
  • 25 towel and wash cloth sets.  There are three of us.
  • A stack of magazines we were never going to read. the words of Taylor Swift, "like...ever."
WAIT!  Don't leave just because I quoted Taylor have to admit that's a good line.

You get the picture.  Lots of stuff for not-a-lot of people.  This list could go ON and ON and ON  I have come to feel so unattached to our things...even the things we kept when we moved.  They just aren't where my heart is anymore.  I'm sure that's not my doing...I'm very human, so of my own accord, I'd probably still be obsessed with the trappings of life.  It has just occurred to me that there's probably a reason why they're called "trappings."

Now, we are living with family (for the time being), and we have a storage shed full from end to end and top to bottom with stuff.  When we were required to pare down to the absolute necessities upon moving here, it occurred to me that we don't need very much to live well.  In excess of stuff can actually inhibit our ability to live well.

Come back tomorrow...I have a lot more to say, but I can tell you're getting bored.

PS - I must disclaim:  I don't really care whether you own two or ten or zero turkey basters.  I really don't.  If I'm in your kitchen, and I open your kitchen gadget drawer and see three turkey basters, do you know what I'm going to say to myself?  I'm going to say...


Just kidding.  I won't even notice that you have three turkey basters.  And if I do, I'll think something to the effect of, "We all do what works best for us.  If three turkey basters works for you, sister, more power to ya."  And I'll mean it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Nature Walk Christmas Ornament

Sadie and I went on a nature walk today and were inspired to find body parts for a Christmas Reindeer ornament!...we think he turned out pretty cute!

We glued his body parts together with a glue gun (Sadie told me where everything should go), and then I tied a piece of twine around his neck so that he could hang on the tree.  He's about 3" wide and 6" tall (including antlers).  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Unemployment and Thankfulness

I mentioned in my last post that Eric and I are both jobless right now...since it's on the table, I'm going to explain what that looks like for us...we're not in dire straits or living under an overpass, we're just having to tighten our belts a little.  We have a LOT of budgeting experience, so if you're worried about us, don't's all gonna be ok!  I have always embraced frugality and creativity and this season will be no different.

The reason we're unemployed:
Three years ago, I left my (amazingly wonderful) job at Google to move to Philadelphia with Eric so that he could begin optometry school.  I'll tell you more of that story one day - you'll like it.  I loved every second of working for that company, and I have missed it terribly.  I took a job in Philadelphia continuing to do what I love and worked there happily for three years.  I loved my work, we made great friends, and we lived in an incredible little community quite by accident.  Last month, I left my job (who does that during a recession??!) so that we could move back to North Carolina where Eric is finishing up his optometry rotations.  I am unemployed because I took a tiny leap of faith during a recession - I'm faithful that God will provide the right opportunity at the right time, and even though I really want to be working right now, I'm not sweating it because I know there's a plan I can't see and that keeping my family intact was more important than anything else during this season.  In the meantime, if you know anyone in Charlotte looking for a really hard working project manager in the construction/architecture/design industry, hook a sister up!  Eric is jobless in the "gainful employment" sense of the word, but he goes to the VA hospital every day and works longer hours than most people for FREE helping people see and learning more about his field.  I'm incredibly proud of everything he has accomplished, and I'm excited to watch him as he begins doing work that he genuinely loves.

The reason(s) we're thankful:
We have a little savings account.  We are depleting it, but it we're not hungry, and we have faith that we never will be.
We have a place to live.  Our family is in North Carolina, and they have bent over backwards to accommodate our little family until we are able to get a place of our own.
We are happy with what we have.  We don't need new anything - we have clothes, cars, phones, access to the internet, and family and friends who understand that we can't give as much this year as we'd like to (although somehow we're managing to do a little bit).
We know God provides.  Try this (seriously...try it):  Think back across the last 5, 10, or 20 years and recall all of the most difficult times you've gone through.  Whether you're thinking of one specific "tough moment" or a hundred, think about how you came out on the other side.  You were held.  You were provided for.  You are still here and breathing.  My mom used to say "this too shall pass" with some frequency.  I never applied it to my own life until I was an adult (except in's really helpful in traffic), but when I get impatient with my circumstances, I remember that "this too shall pass" and that we're going to come out on the other side with new lessons and a more tenacious collective spirit. That's kind of cool to think about, right?

I have been telling people that there's a light at the end of the tunnel because Eric will be a doctor in five short months (wowzers), but if I'm really being honest, there hasn't been much of a tunnel.  Over the course of our marriage, we've been blessed with food, a supportive family, amazing friends (new and old), and each other.  Even in this moment where we are strapped for everything, and getting extra "stuff" just isn't an option for us, we're thankful.  During our toughest times, we didn't day I'll tell you about the miracles surrounding some of our seemingly impossible circumstances...and how it just so happened that we were never truly hungry.  Even when my faith was small (or non-existent), we survived.  We're looking forward to the next step in our journey, but we're not hanging onto it as the ultimate hope for our future.  Jesus is the ultimate hope for our future, and no abundance of (or lack of) money and materials will change that.  I'm human, so I remember that right now, but I may not remember it tomorrow.  I'm gonna count on you to remind me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Packages 2012

Eric and I are both officially jobless - I am interviewing in the Charlotte area, but Eric can't get a job until he graduates from optometry school in May (after which he better be gainfully employed in short order).

This Christmas, we're going the super cheapo route (because that's what you do when you're jobless) with wrapping gifts:  Parcel paper and (free!) twine.  And a giant $1.99 pack of doilies.  They vaguely represent snowflakes...also, I just like the idea of a doily on a package.

I'm smitten with their simplicity...they make me happy.

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