gratitude, In the Home

feel the pulse

We are on day 16 of the post-flood demolition and renovation, and it’s starting to wear on me. At first I was surprised at how little we paused for the interruption, but now I’m growing tired of the mess. It’s hard enough to keep two kids reasonably sorted out with their own things in even the best of circumstances. But my coffee table is in the playroom and the television on the living room floor as I type this. My laundry room is not usable. Everything turned upside down for a little while longer.

I think this experience has taught me a lot of things – as difficult experiences usually do. I’ve learned that a physical space it not what determines a home and that home is the space I have created between the three of us. But I’m also beginning to see that my home routine turned upside down is a trigger for me in terms of stress and exhaustion. I am the ultimate introvert and homebody in many ways. My house is important to me as a little refuge from the rest of my day – which can be exhausting to say the least. All day long, I hear demands scream loudly, and home is usually my space of familiar and real, a place where I can feel the pulse of who I am. But right now it doesn’t feel familiar at all. I’m working to carve out little spaces that feel cozy despite the madness. But my little office / writing room is really the only spot not affected by this mess right now. Our things are shifted all over the place, and my kitchen isn’t all that inviting with its cement floors.

That said, I am finally reaching the fun part in this process. I spent part of yesterday perusing flooring choices, and I’ve got paint samples to try later today. I’m shopping light fixtures online and trying to make decisions carefully and thoughtfully.  I purged so much unnecessary stuff this summer, but this process is basically like moving all over again as the work is completed in each room, so it’s an opportunity to streamline even more. When else do you get the chance to do this? Not much. There is a silver lining to the mess for certain. My home will be all mine from top to bottom when it is done, and I have this time to make it what I want it to be.

Physical spaces carry such an energy, don’t they? I went on a ghost tour last night with a couple of friends, and we walked around old historic estates, tiny houses once inhabited by mill workers, and a historic cemetery with unmarked graves. Whatever your beliefs are about the spirit realm and whether or not we can feel or connect, I know places have an energy to them. We feel this in churches, in historic spaces, and in our own homes, too.

As I reflect on the homes or spaces that have meant the most to me over the years, I can see how little comfort is determined by the actual objects on your walls or size of your house or condition of your furniture. Love and hospitality shine through without regard for that – as does greed or selfishness or a preoccupation with appearance or money. Energy doesn’t lie. You either feel welcomed and at home or you don’t, and so little of that is a result of aesthetics. You can breathe a lot easier when a space is authentic, and I’m trying to remind myself of this as I make decisions in this renovation. What feels like us? What works best for the lives we lead? What is left in this space that is a piece of my old life that doesn’t apply anymore? Out with the old and in with the new.

My grandmother’s passing taught me a lot about this, too. When I was a kid, I only saw abundance everywhere in her home. Always food for us to eat, always space for us to play without feeling like we were intruding or unwelcome, always little comforts that made you want to stay longer. My grandad is still there, of course, but we have cleaned out little bits of her things here and there, and I have stayed there a good bit this month in light of my own house’s mess. And again and again I’m surprised to see the simplicity in their home. I saw abundance when I was younger because of the energy present with love and hospitality and authenticity, not because of anything I could touch or see.

It’s the smallest objects that carry meaning as we sifted through a few of her belongings after she died. Old clothes I passed on to a friend to use in a quilt for me. Christmas ornaments I can remember hanging year after year on her tree. Old photographs and cards. Nothing of material value at all.

A couple months ago, I found a birthday card she’d given me and decided I wanted to use the handwriting on a piece of jewelry. I told my grandfather about this, and he decided he wanted to gift one to each of the women in my family – aunts and cousins and my mom and sister – all of us. I ordered them from Leo’s Mark and couldn’t be happier with the result. I’ve hardly taken mine off since I got it.

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All of her cards always said We love you, never I love you. It made sense for them and how they are and is a testament to their partnership and not just the sweetness of who she was. And every time I put it on, I think of her. The older I get, the less stuff I feel like I need in my life. But I am also learning how it feels to surround myself with a few things that are meaningful and purposeful. I’m working to do this in my home, my closet, my office, everywhere. Even in my own heart and daily interactions. Do someone’s words offer something meaningful and purposeful? If so, I take them to heart. If not, I let them fall away.

Leo’s Mark did such beautiful work with these necklaces, and they have all kinds of ways to honor a loved one if you have handwriting samples of any kind. They were incredibly helpful in designing and orchestrating all of this, and they’re offering readers 10% off with the coupon code MAMATHEREADER10 if you want to treat yourself or someone else to something that is both beautiful and meaningful. (What a perfect holiday gift!)

There is a Iain Thomas quote that says, “And everyday the world will drag you by the hand yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it is up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart, and say ‘No. This is what’s important.'” I’m honoring this time in my own life to let the unimportant fall away and watch what happens as the outside of my life begins to align more sharply with my own heart. Keeping my hand on my heart everyday to feel the pulse of what matters.

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blogging, Books

springtime (and a present for you!)

It’s officially the spring equinox today. The sun is out, the grass is getting greener, and new things await for all of us.

The rhythm of changing seasons is such a comfort, isn’t it? No matter how cold and bleak something is looking in the present moment or what little annoyances are speaking loudly in your ear, it will come and go and eventually make way for something new. Nature mirrors everything else for us if we pay attention.

March brings my own birthday, and it also brings the “birthday” of this little journal – one I began late at night in a chair at my kitchen desk in a house that is now two houses past with a baby who is now a growing boy and a life that is now a million lifetimes ago. I never in a million years – never ever ever, I cannot stress that enough – saw this tiny space as becoming what is has been for me in my past year and a half. I chose a blog title somewhat hurriedly and randomly when I knew that I’d be writing mostly about motherhood and a little about books. I had no idea that it would become about so much more than that. A journal of pain and heartache but also one of light and gladness and immeasurable personal revelations born in moments I never foresaw.

And here we are, six years later, I’m still writing and still recording details of my days that may or may not be of interest to anyone but me. But sometimes they are, and sometimes they have led to moments of clarified purpose that propel me forward even now to some place new.

I think words have a way of healing us like nothing else can. They have a way of shedding light on confusion when nothing else makes sense. I often write about someone else’s words and how they changed me, and it is my very favorite thing to get emails from readers – during this past year they came from as nearby as Atlanta and as far away as Germany – telling me that my words have done the same for them. Personal purpose and a burning need to record my own experiences is why I sit down to write in the first place, but it’s the circle of influence and the ripples that result that keep me showing up again and again.

In celebration of the 6th birthday of this little journal, and in appreciation for every one of you who reads here, I put together a little giveaway with the help of some amazing Etsy artists to pass on to a lucky winner. I’m starting with a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Brave Enough, which is a compilation of quotes from her earlier works. I got my hands on it last fall when it was initially published, and it’s hard to choose a favorite passage. It’s a handy little guidebook when I’m feeling overwhelmed or lost, and Strayed’s usual no-nonsense wisdom shines on every page. The title stems from her passage in an essay on The Rumpus when she tells a reader to “be brave enough to break your own heart,” and that concept echoes on every page. It astounds me how many times in the past year of my life someone has called me “brave” when anyone who knows me knows that I am, in many ways, the opposite of brave. I am scared and cautious and careful at almost every moment of every day, but I’m realizing real bravery stems from the insistence to stand in your own truth and show your real heart. There’s nothing that requires more courage, and there’s nothing that provides those same feelings of peace and power.

To add to my bookish gift, Brianna over at BBeadazzled is giving this beauty. It seemed like the perfect accompaniment to Strayed’s work and a reminder to be brave and show up in the truest way every single day.

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And Lovewell Handlettering added this sweet little journal as well. Gratitude as a general concept and gratitude as a daily practice are two totally different things, and I cannot overestimate the ways my life has grown and changed by my persistence in recording the beauty of everyday moments in this space. It opens my eyes everyday to see the good in what’s around me. I’d love to pass on an encouragement to you to do the same.

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I have passed on quote after quote and underlined paragraphs and scribbled marginalia in so many books in the past few years and then shared those words with you here. What I’d like for this bloggy birthday is for you to do the same thing in return. What quote sets you on fire? What line have you underlined or scribbled somewhere in hopes you wouldn’t forget it? It’s hard to choose just one favorite passage, but I’d love to hear one that rings true for you right now. Pass it on and share it with the rest of us.

You are welcome to leave a comment here, or if you are reading from your phone, click on over to Facebook and leave one there if that’s easier. (This post is pinned at the top.) This Friday, the 25th, I’ll number the comments, let a number generator choose the winner, and then check in with the winner to ship your goodies!

Sharing words is my very favorite thing to do, and I can’t wait to see what bits of wisdom you scatter here. I’ll go first with a passage that has guided me immeasurably in the past year and continues to do so when I read it again and again.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

So many times in recent months I have repeated live the questions now again and again in my head, and it still amazes me that words written in 1929 by someone I will never meet can do what they do in my own life. Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

So now it’s your turn. Tell us below or over on Facebook. What words shine like a light for you? I’ll choose a winner on Friday.

Happy birthday, little blog.

blogging, gratitude

On Gratitude {and another great Etsy giveaway}

So last week I marked one year of blogging with a little look back at my favorite posts and a few highlights.  I mentioned that I wrote one entry that totally changed blogging for me.

When I started this site, I had been immersed in a million different awesome mommy blogs that give you ideas and inspiration and little tips for fun things to do with your kids and ways to enhance your family.  I was itching for a space to write as I embarked on a new journey for my own life, and I envisioned that one day my blog would grow to be that handy-mommy-blog prototype.  I’d be so awesome sharing my oh-so-valuable recipes and tips about home and baby and whatnot. (Ha!)  I started participating in the occasional linky lists and gaining a few readers, but somehow I just wasn’t always feeling it.  I’d record what happened here or there, link to a new recipe, post a photo, and hit publish and only sometimes like what was on the screen in front of me.

Then one night last August, I got the baby in bed and sat down at the computer with an overwhelming urge to write down the details of the day, knowing they were probably only interesting to me but not caring so much about what made it publication-worthy.  I just wanted to write, and I did.  And this post felt so good to me that I continued a trend.  Soon came this one. And this one. And this one. And somehow gratitude kind of began to multiply and the funniest thing happened: I began to notice these tiny moments in my day that were aching to be recorded.  And although I still sometimes share a tip or recipe every now and then, it is these entries of thankfulness that feel the most real to me and leave me feeling like this little journal is worthwhile.  Sometimes it’s such a great day that I won’t let myself finish without recording the details, and sometimes it’s just that I write about gratitude so that I can remember the good over the bad, no matter how much the bad was screaming to be noticed.   Other times still, I honestly have no main idea to write about, but there are tiny details asking to be remembered.

Gratitude is valuable for lots of reasons.  The most significant of which is that it leaves you feeling more and more grace and finding a million things to be thankful for.  If it weren’t for this journal and what I write here, I know I would sometimes finish the day feeling exhausted and defeated, but by actually looking at this space as a log of my days, I ask myself,  what do I really want to remember?  Recognizing the beauty in the everyday is a spiritual exercise, and I think months ago, I didn’t fully predict how that would affect my perspective.  When I take out all the whining and complaining, the good always outweighs the bad. Always.

So in many ways, that’s what this space has become for me: a place to be thankful, to record the happy, however simple that might be. It makes the day take on a brighter hue and tomorrow seem a little more full of possibilities.

Speaking of bright and beautiful, how lovely is this?

It’s a gift sponsored by The Shady Hollow, and it could be yours if you do something simple.

Tell me what you are grateful for today. One thing.  No matter how small.  Just one little note of gratitude.

For an additional entry, you can do the following and leave me an additional comment saying you did:

  1. Visit The Shady Hollow and take a look around, tell me what your favorite item is.  There are so many beautiful choices; it’s hard to pick!  They have a number of different colors of the bird’s nest jewelry and some lovely natural glass earrings as well as wonderful sculptures.
  2. Spread the word about this giveaway through Facebook, Twitter, or blog, and leave me a comment telling me so.

So there you have it.  One moment of gratitude for your day and two more ways to get extra entries for a sweet little handcrafted sterling silver set.  Easy-peasy!  [And seriously lovely jewelry!  Thank you, Shady Hollow!]

** Winner will be chosen by comment number with random.org this Friday (the 25th) at noon.

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“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”- John Milton