Slow down and breathe

beachcomber-1s

With age 29 coming up for me in a few months, I have a some thoughts. For several years, I made lists on each birthday of the things I wanted to do and experience in the coming year. Often most of them didn’t happen—many times I carried them over to the next year, and the next. It’s not because I didn’t care enough to go after these things, it’s just that priorities tended to shift as life went on, with all of its unexpected twists and turns.

I’ve spent my 20’s primarily having and raising babies, as well as building a business from scratch, and often simply hoping to get all of the bills paid and put food on the table. All of these factors made things like international travel feel like a pipe dream. It is okay though. This doesn’t depress me because I know there will be time and resource for all of that in coming years.

My current everyday existence may appear less glamorous and exciting, but it is its own awesome adventure. This whole life-with-littles thing, it’s a get to. I get to be the one watching my beautiful children grow, day by day. I get to teach and love them, comfort and guide them; I’m witnessing their “firsts” and helping set the foundation their entire lives will be built on. And then I will get to see them spread their own wings and make their own amazing lives, and I’ll look back on these precious, fleeting days and I know I won’t wish that I’d gotten to travel more, or that I’d spent more hours hustling to build my career. I’ll just be glad for all the time I spent fully present with them—holding, listening, teaching, loving. This is something I aim to keep in mind constantly—may I always put this above all else, above “busy” and above work and above the to-do list. May I not allow “getting things done” to ever keep me from taking the time to pour into my kids with patience and grace. 

Europe will still be there in 10 years. So I’m not making a birthday list of things to check off during this final year of my 20’s. There will be no “30 Before 30”.
Instead, there’s this: whatever is happening in the current moment, whatever I am doing at any given time, may I be fully IN that. If I’m drinking a cup of coffee, may I notice and savor the flavor, the aroma, and the smooth feel of the mug in my hands. If I’m feeding Eaden, may I hold her tiny hand and look into her eyes rather than my phone. If I’m reading aloud to my boys, may I cuddle closer and put all other things out of my mind, enjoying the story along with them. If I’m in a conversation with someone (child, or adult) may I look them in the eye and focus solely on what they’re saying. May I notice things, pay attention to the details, and live in gratitude for all of it.

How often are we so busy that we even resort to attempting multiple tasks at once? We’re so pulled in multiple directions that we’re becoming incapable of focusing on just one thing, and in turn we aren’t giving our best to anything at all. In Teaching From Rest, Sarah Mackenzie writes,

“There just isn’t a way to steep yourself in this moment if you multitask your way through it. With the exception of automatic behaviors such as walking and talking, our brains can only attend to one thing at a time. What we usually think of as multitasking is actually task switching, and it is both an inefficient and ineffective way to work.”
and further—
“By definition, to be efficient is to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. But relationships don’t flourish or grow that way. Relationships need time, spent lavishly.”

We all too often prioritize efficiency over relationships, even though we know that people are always more important. Doing things differently requires intentionally going against the grain of our overly fast-paced culture, and unlearning the deep-seeded mindset we have learned from it. I recently came across a blog post on A Cup of Jo on “single-tasking” or “mono-tasking”. It was a great post, and yet I find it a little bit crazy that an entire new buzzword has been created for the concept of focusing on one thing at a time. Our cultural tendency to glorify “busy” has reached such an extreme that we now see simply doing one task at once as a novel idea. How often, when you ask (or are asked) how someone is doing, is the answer almost automatically some version of “Oh I’ve been crazy busy!”? I feel like this is almost always the case. It’s basically expected. Most of us live in a constant state of stress and rushing. We have paid steeply for our frenzied pace of life, in the form of chronic stress, anxiety, severe health problems, disconnected relationships, and a shocking inability to focus well or work well on anything.

For me, this is all the more evidence for the need to step off the crazy train and intentionally create slowness in my life and that of my family. Not only despite it being countercultural, but because it is. I want my children to know the art of just doing nothing, and the magical creativity that comes from boredom. I want our home to be a place to breathe—one of peace and unhurried life. I want to be able to honestly say that the pace of my life is not too much, because I’m living it at human speed and am leaving enough margin to actually breathe.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset
my constant reminder.

Some further reading on this that I’ve enjoyed:

Discovering the Joy of Single Tasking
Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)
Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace
Faster Than the Speed of Life

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The Process of Simplicity

hannah_mayo_255

I think I’ve held back from writing here very often because I haven’t known where to begin. There are so many topics I want to write about, and yet none that I have polished and totally figured out. I’m curious about so much, but rarely an expert. But rather than getting overwhelmed and running away (again), I’m going to just pick one thing and talk about it. And then another, and another, without having to map out some kind of organized game plan ahead of time. (That’s probably what most bloggers do anyway. I most likely overthink it.)

So today, simplicity is on my mind. I feel like it’s become a somewhat overused term. It’s thrown around a lot—”live simply” or “I’m simplifying”—but what does it mean? Personally, when I consider the idea of simplicity I picture an all-encompassing lifestyle, steeped in an appreciation for the beauty of everyday moments. I envision a home that is fairly minimal, but more importantly, contains only what is useful or beautiful (and hopefully both). I desire to carefully consider what we bring into our home, and what we keep here. I want quality over quantity. In a culture as materialistic as ours is, possessions are definitely one of the biggest obstacles to a simpler life. But there is so much more to it than only stuff. It applies to the way we spend our time, the way we eat, the way we treat illness and what we clean our homes with. My goal is not only to declutter, but to create an atmosphere in my home that is simple and peaceful and makes space for joy, creativity, movement, and the pursuit of knowledge.

We have come a long way in this area, but still have so far we can go. It is a process, and happens on a continuum. Every time we’re faced with the option to bring another new thing into our lives, we can exercise simplicity. Do I need this? What will it add to my life? Will I still want it in a week? a month? a year? Is there a version of this item that will last longer, work better, or be more aesthetically pleasing? How was it made—where, and by whom? These are all questions I aim to consider when making purchases.

This has meant moving away from plastics and disposable items, and choosing to pay more, once, for something that will last rather than opting for a cheap item that will break or wear out.

Along with seemingly everyone and their mother (am I right?) I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo last year. In case you aren’t familiar, this book takes you step-by-step through the process of editing down the things you own, based on the simple question “Does this spark joy?” So I read this, and then proceeded to “Konmarie” our home, and over the course of a few weeks we carted off about two pickup trucks worth of stuff to the local non-profit we donate to (which gives directly to the families of farm workers in the area—I prefer this option over Goodwill/Salvation Army because I know these things are being used by people in need). We also discarded several large black trash bags of unusable items like broken toys, clothes worn to rags, and so so many bottles of expired or half-used cosmetics and toiletries from under the sink. It was absurd. It was rather shocking to see that we’d been holding on to so much that we didn’t need, want, or use anymore.

That whole process definitely made an impact on me and caused me to consider our habits of consumption. But I’m still training myself, and unfortunately I’ve still purchased/accumulated some things since then that ended up being mistakes. Like I said, it’s a process. Every few months or so I get the “declutter” itch again, and I sweep through the house collecting items to get rid of. As the seasons change, some toys stop getting played with, some books are outgrown or could serve someone else much better, some clothes are just not getting any love and therefore not earning their place in the drawer or closet.

I recently thoroughly enjoyed reading Simple Matters by Erin Boyle. I think every once in a while I need a good infusion of simplicity inspiration in book form. This one is just beautiful, and has me thinking all over again about the beauty and quality of each thing we own, and the social and environmental impact of it’s production and eventual discard. And so the process of creating a more peaceful and minimal home and life continues. I’ll keep you posted.

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Thrifted

Something you may not know about me: I’m not a huge fan of shopping in malls. I have heard some ladies describe shopping as “exhilarating” and “energizing”, but while I don’t completely hate a few hours at the mall, it overwhelms me. I always leave exhausted. Then I discovered the wonders of thrift, antique, and vintage stores, and I think I understand what my mall-shopping friends are talking about. It’s a bit like treasure hunting, and I love it. So here are some of my finds from this week…

I have been wanting a nice floppy hat for gardening and the beach- this one is perfect :)

wooden bowl and spoon- always on the lookout for food photography props

two vintage pillow cases- I always see project tutorials that call for them.

I love this mug for my tea- such a lovely color

a nice, big, simple vase for flowers

I got three of these plates- I love dinnerware that has a handmade feel

The pattern on this skirt- oh I just couldn’t resist.

paisley shawl

This just amazed me- dated 1899 and super heavy (cast iron). I had to get it.

This box is now holding fruit on my kitchen counter.

Pretty patterned butter knife

This lens… doesn’t actually go on any of my cameras, but again I just couldn’t pass it up. I am interested in learning about how to make homemade lenses, which can give a very interesting tilt-shift/Lensbaby look. If I can’t use it for that I might sell it, because it is in great condition.

When I was exploring downtown a few days ago, I found an antique mall that looks like it will easily replace my favorite on that closed several months ago. Seth was fussy so I only glanced at a few things before needing to leave, but I am planning on going back in by myself soon and taking some time.

Have a beautiful week, friends!

-h

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Festivities…

Decorating our tree. Manny’s parents came over to help.

Manny shot these:

And the next week, we went with them to get theirs and we all decorated it together.

{It was pretty cold (for Florida) for a while, with lows in the 30’s. Now it’s back to the 60’s/70’s, which is perfect for me.}

Here’s the whole group- shot using the timer and a makeshift tripod:

It is so, so great that we are all together, home, and healthy this year. I am so thankful. Last Christmas we visited Jackie in the hospital, as she was just finishing up her first round of chemo. What a huge difference a year makes!

And… a sneak peek at gifts I’ve been making. I made these felted hot mats for my grandma, who doesn’t read my blog, so it’s safe to post here :)
I’m kind of in love with felting things lately. The one on the left came out a little funny, since I had to kind of make them up as I went. I really like how they came out though, and might be making a set for our table.

And tonight, we went (very spontaneously) to the zoo where they’re doing “Holiday Nights” this week. It was so much fun, and Seth got to meet “Santa” for the first time. Thankfully, he didn’t ask for anything he’s not getting :-P They had LED Christmas lights everywhere. Our zoo is very conservation-minded. We have a membership and we just love going and walking around as a family.

Tomorrow, Seth and I are heading to visit my family until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Manny works Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, so our Christmas celebrating will be kind of odd and spread out. I’m really looking forward to it though, and I’m busy finishing up my last few handmade gifts! It looks like I’ll be sending out packages the Monday after- but better a little late then never, right?

I’ll be back in the morning with a yummy recipe!

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Today I'm dreaming of…

A simpler existence.
One without complicated grown-up problems that I feel like I just can’t solve.

I’m dreaming of walking on the beach with my family, of taking time to shoot just for me, of reading books again, of just slowing down and focusing on what is most important to me, and letting everything negative just melt away, at least for a while.

I’ve been daydreaming lately about the perfect outdoor space. I picture a long wooden table to fill with friends and family, and strings of lights hanging. Mixmatched vintage chairs. A hammock, a play area for Seth, and a little herb garden. I love our little yard- and am so thankful to finally have a yard- but I do look forward to one that’s big enough to do a little bit more in.

I’m inspired by images like this:

via Style Files

via Little Lovely

via Dress Design Decor

via Apartment Therapy


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Decking the Halls {Part I- Decorating}

I have been whipping up handmade holiday decorations in my spare moments over the last couple of days, and I wanted to share a few of them with you! We ventured into the attic yesterday and retrieved our boxes of ornaments, and our faux wreath for the door, which I decorated the first year we were married, as well as our stockings and some other things. I’m hoping to add lots of handmade things to our collection this year.

I found this great blog post about decorations made from simple white cardstock, on d.Sharp Journal, via Design Sponge. I love how my snowman garland and angels come out!

Also on Design Sponge, I found the instructions for these fun paper ornaments, which I hung from the chandelier above our dining table.

A few nights ago we went to CityPlace, where they have a giant Christmas tree and a train for the kiddos, which Seth thoroughly enjoyed.
p.s.- It was dark outside when I took these. I love my D700’s high ISO capabilities!

Yes, the holiday season has officially arrived, and I am loving it!

xoxo, h

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Another gardening post…

What can I say?– it’s just that time of year, and I am so excited about my garden that I have to share. Yesterday we spent most of the day in the backyard building a planter box.

Here is the picture everyone has been waiting for: me using power tools.

watch out world

It was empowering. And deafening. My neighbors probably hate my guts.

{oh by the way check out my frangipani, in the pot behind me- it has finally sprouted some little leaves! I bought it at an art festival months and months ago and was wondering if it would ever do anything, but it is!}

Seth got in on the action too.

helping

little builder
Literally, in. This was before we put down weed blocker and added dirt.

Little wormy friend:
worm friend

And the finished product:
new planter box
I transplanted my basil, malibar spinach, and cantaloupe plants, and I sowed seeds for red rubin basil, lemon balm, marigolds and sunflowers. I have eggplant, bell pepper and rosemary seeds starting inside that I will transplant when they’re ready.

I am so sore today- but it’s a good sore. I love this kind of work- it makes me feel like I am really connecting with the earth, growing food that I will {hopefully} serve to my family in the coming months and beyond.

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simplicity.

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When I wrote this post on TV watching, I knew I wanted t o soon write a post, or even a series of them, devoted to simple living. It’s something that has been on my mind lately. I subscribe to a few blogs about minimalism, such as Rowdy Kittens and Mnmlist, and many others that value simple and eco-conscious living. The wisdom they deliver daily to my google reader has been very valuable and caused  me to really examine how I live and how I relate to stuff. Watching Annie Lennox’s The Story of Stuff was really a huge eye-opener for me about our consumer culture. It is sort a of difficult paradigm shift- I grew up in the nineties, when American culture was really becoming more and more obsessing with stuff. I buy and own so many unnecessary things, telling myself that they are completely necessary because my culture tells me they are, because my culture’s collective mentality is controlled by corporations that thrive on us all believing that we need more and more and more stuff.

I am trying to rethink, reevaluate, and train my mind to stop believing that I have to go to Target and get ______. I am looking at whether or not I really need the things I think I do. Before every purchase I am asking myself if I could be just as happy without it, or of I could find it secondhand or handmade, or at least made sustainably rather than mass-produced. Or if I can make it myself or re-purpose something I already have. I am going through the things I own already- the stuff that clutters the corners of my living space, and evaluating everything based on this William Morris I recently read at Simple Mom: “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

{source: Simple Mom}

I want my life, and my son’s life, to me rich with experiences rather than things. We all know that stuff doesn’t make us happy, but do we really believe it? Do we live like we believe it?

I still have a long way to go. I still regularly convince myself that I have to have some silly thing I don’t really need. I still make impulse buys sometimes and later look at the thing wondering why I chose to spend our hard-earned money on it. But I am trying. It is a process and a journey- one that leads to a more fulfilling existence and a happier planet- definitely worth it.

Here are some related links that have really made me think lately:

On buying handmade, and quality over quantity/convenience:
(Obviously we need to buy things sometimes, but when we do we can make better choices about what. Handmade, pre-loved, fair trade and sustainable produced are all great options. Sometimes they are more expensive, but they will last longer because of that and will not contribute to unfair labor practices and earth-destroying production methods. I would rather have fewer things of higher quality and ethics than lots of junky things that will soon break and sit in a landfill!)
3 Reasons to Pay More for Your Stuff

The True Cost of Handmade

An interesting article about the cost of constantly buying new cars

On consumerism and happiness:
How to Find Happiness Without Shopping for It
Conspicuous Consumption

12 Steps to Achieving Happiness

Another great article:
Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids

Living simply isn’t only about what we buy or don’t buy- it’s just that for most Americans that is an excellent place to start. We would also be much happier in general if we tried living in the moment rather than constantly multi-tasking and being so busy that we forget to just live. Spend more time with people– face-to-face, more time outdoors, more time being creative and learning through experiences and good old-fashioned books. Less time in front of various types of screens, less time shopping or thinking about what we’d like to shop for.

I like this little poem, via Becoming Minimalist:

When sitting, just sit.
When eating, just eat.
When walking, just walk.
When talking, just talk.
When listening, just listen.
When looking, just look.
When touching, just touch.
When thinking, just think.
When playing, just play.
And enjoy the feeling of each moment and each day.

~from Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on this sometime soon… for now I’ll leave you with one more thought- I quote I’ve liked for quite some time, and yet am only now truly realizing what it means ( I even have it on a bumper magnet on my car- how cliche it that?!):

“Live simply, that others may simply live.”

(note: I looked up who this quote was by, and there seems to be debate as to whether it was Gandhi or St. Elizabeth Seton. To me they both seem likely candidates, and I doubt either would care who got the credit.)

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I have an idea

I want our home to really become my studio. I want to be able to meet with clients for consultations and proofing right here, where my computer is. I picture my work on canvases on the walls and beautiful welcoming decor and little accents that make people feel that they are not intruding- that our house is meant for guests. I also have an idea in my head for an outdoor studio setup in the back yard. I just need some really great outdoor cushions, a large sheet, maybe a hammock…
I love the idea of people coming to view their photos here, us offering coffee or tea in beautiful whimsical mugs, a relaxed and personal atmosphere of creativity rather than only offering online proofing.
I think it would work. I think it would be great. More to come.

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