We need our girlfriends

Monday, August 7, 2017

Friendship is a sheltering tree. -- Coleridge

Our hydrangeas are beautiful and prolific this year.

We had our 3rd annual book club sleepover this past Friday night.

I'm so thankful for this special group of women. We've been meeting for more than six years now, and have read more than 100 books. 

We are all former or current homeschooling moms, with a love of books.

But we're a lot more than that. These 10 women are some of the kindest, wisest, strongest, funniest, most beautiful women I know. We've cried together, laughed together, prayed together, helped each other pack and move, hosted bridal showers, helped with graduation parties, gone through illness and heartbreak together, rejoiced together . . .  I think about the combined skills and talents and intelligence and life experiences we have, and I'm pretty amazed.

Nine of us gathered for dinner Friday night, with five of us spending the night, and a sixth returning in the morning to share breakfast with us.

I made signs to put on the bedroom doors. And one on the entrance to the family room, as one sweet volunteer slept on the couch. Out of 10 of us, there are 5 Debbies! We all spell our names differently -- a Debbie, a Debby, a Deb, a Debra, and yours truly, a Deborah.
It had been a hard week for many of us. One wasn't going to come and had to be coaxed, some showed up in tears, some got upsetting phone calls early in the evening, one had an emergency and joined us later. But we rallied together, praying for each other, listening to each other, and giving lots of hugs and words of encouragement.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. -- Romans 12:15

And we ate some good food. Indian takeout, including mango shrimp, samosas, tamarind chicken, and eggplant. Baklava and fancy little desserts, half eaten before I remembered to get a pic.

We played a board game.

And we laughed. Long and hard. So healing to laugh with friends who get you.

 A study done at Stanford University reported that the best thing a man can do for his health is to marry a woman; the best thing a woman can do for her health is to have girlfriends!! Funny, but the idea is that women know how to emotionally connect. Men tend to share activities, like golf and other sports, with their friends. They don't usually share emotions or personal issues.

But we women are all about sharing and talking and supporting and nurturing. Men need women and women need women because of this. (I would add that women need men, for sure!)

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. -- Proust

Coffee and coloring in the early morning.
I'm kind of taken aback when I encounter women who gossip and create drama, who play games, who are catty and rude. I've been spoiled with my friends, not just those in my book club, but the other dear ones I've chosen to have in my life. Including my lovely and special blog friends!

The ones I've chosen. I finally learned a number of years ago to let go of people who aren't kind, who try to steamroll you and run your life, who are competitive and envious, or who play games. Sometimes we have to deal with people like that in the workplace or, unfortunately, sometimes among family members, but we can choose our friends.

I'm leaving tomorrow to spend a week with a dear friend who just had surgery and can't be on her feet for a few more weeks. Looking forward to laughing and crying together, drinking tea, and watching lots of good movies.

Hug a girlfriend today.

What do you think of the minimalism trend?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Minimalism, the decluttering lifestyle trend, has been on the radar for several years now. Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, helped bring attention to the movement, and to judge by the number of blogs and books devoted to the subject, it doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. It's said to appeal to millennials. And people resisting consumerism, materialism, and wastefulness. People overwhelmed with 21st-century life.

But is it just a trend? Does it make sense?

 I've read a number of these blogs and books about minimalism over the past few years. I've done the whole Project 333 thing, reducing the clothes in my closet. Decluttered and tried to simplify. And I've come to some conclusions about the whole thing.

Like anything, minimalism can be carried to an extreme. I've read blogs about it that are just silly. For two people, all you need, max, is four plates, four coffee cups, four towels, etc. Extra points for reducing that even more. Put your mattress on the floor so you don't have to clean under a bed. Get rid of all your books and only borrow from the library. 

Super simple, Zen living is appealing to some. But, to me, it only works if you're going backpacking in the woods for a couple weeks and you don't want to lug around a big heavy backpack. It just doesn't seem practical for real life. And, really, why?

Jennifer L. Scott, who has written the Madame Chic books, and has a popular YouTube channel, talks about a 10-item wardrobe. I think the concept of finding clothes you love and will really wear and feel good in is helpful, but I don't feel I need to strive for such an extreme.

For a recent prayer time with a couple friends.
      On the other side of the coin, there are hoarders, but I think we'd all say that isn't a good idea. We've seen the show. 

Then there are "preppers" who may or may not go to extremes, and just plain common-sense folk who advocate stocking up supples for emergencies, including storms and other natural disasters. Living in Michigan, with snowstorms and frequent power outages, I do like to have a supply of food on hand in the winter. Even if there's not a ton of snow out there, who wants to go out on icy roads if you don't have to?

The benefit for me of reading these blogs and books, especially a few years ago, was that it coincided with a change in my life circumstances. I was ready to clean up, clear out, and re-focus my energies.

Ending my homeschooling days and sending three children off to college really changed my life. I no longer needed a schoolroom, shelves of homeschooling books, or the extra food and pantry items for hungry teenagers and their friends.

It was time to clear out and get ready for the next stage. Books on minimalism were inspiring and got me motivated to organize and declutter.

It took me a few years, but I donated or threw out boxes and boxes and bags and bags of stuff.

As I re-thought my diet and my cooking preferences, I gave up my grain grinder and my canning supplies. After all, I've been trying to cut down on the carbs, and I no longer have a family of five to feed.

For the most part, I did well. But I was overzealous. There have been a number of things I wished I had held on to.

Why did I get rid of my canning supplies? Several years later, I'm wanting to can again. After all, my husband and I still eat. I still like to have things put away in my pantry. It's nice to give jam or pickles  as gifts for friends. 

Back in my grandparents' day, people didn't declutter. They held on to things just in case. The Depression was too real for them, and scraps and bits of food and fabric and string were saved, and used. (I read a book once called String too Short to Be Saved. A frugal New England farmer saved everything, and had a jar of string with that label on it!)

The minimalists tell us, get rid of it! If it doesn't spark joy, pitch it! (I think the underlying assumption is, that if you find you really need it, you can just go out and buy it again.)

I don't like clutter, and I like things neat and organized. But no one would accuse me of being a minimalist. Not with more than 1,200 books, 75 teacups, and drawers of antique linens. Not with shelves and drawers of makeup and jewelry and scarves.

If you want to treat yourself, get the Prismacolor colored pencils. SO much nicer than the Crayola.
And, as I've said, my Project 333 has broken down, mostly because I've gained back some weight, and my carefully curated closet doesn't quite fit. Even when I -- ahem -- get back into those clothes, that minimalistic of an approach probably is not for me, although it was a very useful exercise. 

To me, "spark joy" isn't always a useful maxim. Does a treadmill spark joy? Maybe it should, but it just doesn't. A better maxim I think is the old one, "have nothing in your house that is not beautiful or useful." A treadmill doesn't spark joy, it's not beautiful, but it is useful in helping me get some exercise.

So this is my idea:

*** (Try to) keep an organized, clutter-free home.

*** Love what you love and have as many as you want/can afford/have room for, whether it's books and teacups or yarn and fabric or shoes and handbags. (Just don't collect lots of everything!) Be grateful and enjoy.

*** Keep a reasonable supply of backup goods (extra towels and sheets for guests or illness, extra food and water for emergencies).

*** Get rid of stuff that you really don't like or that you're reasonably certain you won't use again. Paper clutter drives me crazy, and I'm constantly sorting through that. I've also tried to get rid of most plastic, itchy fabrics, decorative items that aren't beautiful to me, clothes that don't suit me, books I don't like.

*** Resist impulse buying and temptations to consume. Unsubscribe to emails that tempt you to buy.  Unsubscribe from catalogs, or put them right in the recycling bin. If you really need something you can go looking online and probably find, or wait for, a sale. In the meantime, all that advertising won't be taking up your time and mental space.

Like everything in life, balance is a good thing. So while the minimalist trend has been helpful in identifying what kinds of things I like in my life, and helping me to get organized, I'm on the side of balance and moderation. Paring down to the bare minimum is really no fun.  The other extreme, hanging on to everything "just in case" or out of guilt, is just too overwhelming.


Speaking of minimalism, check out my teeny pillow.

Yes, this is what I sleep on. It helps my neck from getting all cricked up. It's a tiny travel pillow. I made these little pillowcases for it.

They won't let me bring my pillow to my overnight sleep study. No pillows can be brought in unless they're brand new, still in packaging, and they watch you open it. They're trying to avoid bedbugs. 


What do you all think? Are you a minimalist? Or do you love your stuff? In between?

Bronchitis . . . and a little time to think and plan

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I'm recovering from bronchitis . . . I seem to have lost two weeks of summer. Last time I had this I cracked a rib from coughing so much. Felt sure I was going to do the same this time.

But, as they say, there's always a silver lining. Or, as my mom says, "it's an ill wind that blows no good . . . "

*** I discovered that I sleep much better on the mattress in one of our guest rooms. I was sleeping downstairs on the recliner because of my cough, and graduated to a guest room so as not to wake my husband. My back is not sore in the mornings. I'm hoping we can switch the mattresses soon. Although my husband likes our softer mattress. Hmm . . . 

*** I finally finished the second sock I was knitting. Other than the last 12 stitches. I need my knitting instructor to show me again how to do the kitchener stitch to finish it off. I'm so proud of this pair of socks. A lot of effort and a couple tears were shed in the making.

*** I re-read Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, and was inspired to get into a better routine with my housework. One of my blogger friends has discovered the old Side-Tracked Home Executives method, but it looks a little too complicated for me.

I remember a couple years ago I made myself a whole list of daily chores, and it exhausted me after a week!

Because I don't work outside the home, it's easy to get lax with housekeeping routines. I need to set something up so I can keep up with things, get some projects done, and make time for other pursuits. Have any of you found a system you like?

*** I became convicted -- again -- about social media. I'm tempted by IG, but going to resist. I only posted there for a few months, and it was fun to see my friends' pictures and keep in contact with them. But it is another pull on my time. I'm definitely dealing with the FOMO, but, oh well.

I just read another article on the time-sucking, creativity-draining, mind-numbing effects of social media and screen time. I've often wondered how my grandmother accomplished so much. Things were quiet, and there were no media distractions.

I fasted from my phone and laptop on Sunday. I think I will make this a regular habit.

I'm also thinking about having a set time during my day to get online. Not always checking and getting distracted all day long. Have any of you tried this?

*** Sitting and staring at our backyard (while coughing lying a-bed) helped me to formulate a plan to de-forest.

In the 19 years we've been here, the woods keep advancing toward the house, to the point that I can barely see the sky from my kitchen sink.

My husband has fought a valiant fight over the years with his chainsaw, trimming and hacking away. But it's time to get someone in to clear out some of scrubby brush (hawthorn bushes, mostly), dead branches, and vines, and to thin things out a bit.

The good news is that instead of a wall of bushes, we are starting to see a forest, with an understory, and I will enjoy looking through the woods, and having some space for the sunlight to peep through and room for the nicer trees to stretch their limbs, as it were.

We had two sad-looking cedars here at the side of the deck, outside my kitchen window. My husband removed one, and stripped down the other to serve as my bird feeding station.

After years of staining, and replacing boards, we are replacing the wood deck with a new composite one. No more maintenance!

We had been asked to host a large party this summer (which thankfully got postponed). But that was what really got us moving. We were afraid someone's foot could go through the wood in some spots.

I bought this vintage floral fitted sheet at an antique store last year, and hope to get some pillowcases made from it. I sleep on a very small pillow. I need to wrap a regular pillowcase around it 1 1/2 times to fit!

The above picture shows what a lazy blogger I've become. I never would have taken a picture of a wrinkled pillowcase I had just slept on. I would have made up the bed, put on a fresh pillowcase, etc., to take the picture. Sigh . . . 

How's your summer going? Let me know your thoughts about housekeeping routines and managing online and social media.

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