Never Alone

I’m hearing a lot about how thing might look different once the pandemic is over. Some speculate that things are never going to go back to the way they were. I’ve wondered myself what the new norm will look like in the coming months and years. Some days I wonder if there has been unrepairable damage done to our collective psyche and if we will ever interact with strangers and others like we used to. Since we haven’t actually seen the smile of a stranger in a year, what’s to say we are even smiling anymore…

Then something happens to show me again that as humans we are Good, we are friendly, we care and we want to be in community with others.

MP went to Maine this week to visit him mom. He left on Saturday morning, early, and is gone for most of a week. I am at our Arizona home, where we have a tight group of friends and there is music in the courtyard daily and sunshine enough to make anyone feel like life is mostly normal again. There are guidelines in place to keep everyone safe, but it is a wonderful place this time of year with the grapefruit tress blooming and the soft evening breezes still keeping things cool.

The first day MP was gone I had plans with the girls and we shopped and enjoyed each others company then met in the courtyard for cocktails and music. They were each sure to check on me and make sure I was ok and that MP had traveled safely. They are good friends. They truly care about each other and about MP and I.

But on Sunday, we all had plans of our own and I spent my day doing grown up things like, talking to the kids, going to church, cleaning house and ordering groceries. You know…weekend things. At 2pm there was a good band in the courtyard and while I had not planned to go down the music called to me rather quickly and I found myself at a two top, alone. It was ok with me to be alone. I was enjoying the music and the sun and really, for one of the first times in my life, was incredibly easy about being by myself. Maybe I should clarify “alone”…. I attended alone… and there were 200 other people there with me. I had not shown up with MP or anyone else so alone is kind of relative, but you get the idea…. I was there “alone”. I know many of those in attendance, some better then others, and while our gang wasn’t there, I still had lots of ‘hellos’ and ‘wheres MP’s?’, smiles and friendly waves. I felt welcome and content and safe and happy. I ordered a cocktail and settled in to listen.

Within just a few moment I was approached and after finding out MP was out of town, asked to sit with a group. I’ve met them several times and enjoy their company and they too have a home in Idaho. I kindly declined, content with the idea of being by myself (in a group of 200) and just listening to music today. Soon a lady approached me and asked if she could sit with me. She was probably 75 and while I have a general idea of most of the people who live here, I had never met Mary before. She sat at my table and before long I learned of her life, her family, her children and her past career as a teacher. When she left about an hour later she thanked me for the Ice Tea and said she hoped we’d talk again. Soon another friend stopped to say hello, and then another group invited me to sit with them. A group of ladies even invited me to dance with them. A ‘stranger’ asked me if I’d like to join their table, saying she felt bad seeing me sitting by myself. All generous and genuine offers of kindness. And then it occured to me…. people don’t like seeing someone alone.

I took a deep breath and understood in real time….I have nothing to worry about.

Based on what I experienced today, nothing can change the heart of who we are. NOt differing opinions. Not national shootings. Not politics and definitely not a Pandemic. We are a people who care about other people. We are a people who want to make sure no one feels alone or by themselves. We are still a people who deep down, authentically care and want to make sure others are cared for. Nothing has changed that. Even if a mask is covering our smile, the heart has remained open, uncovered and never agreed to become socially distanced.

I quietly finished my drink and on a set break thanked those who had asked me to join them and quietly walked home, reminded again that people are good. I never thought I would hear myself say this, or write this, but I enjoyed being alone today because it allowed me to personally experience the truth and reality that people are still good. I mean really, really good regardless of the year that just occured. While we may disagree about some things, and we may not know everyones name or hang out with them often, in the heart of who we are …WE are good and we’re going to continue to be good. I am blessed to be part of a community that cares, includes and intuitively reaches out to someone they see who may need a chat, a kind word, an invitation of friendship, a place to sit or just a hello. What an amazing time to be alive.

Lessons from Loss

Interesting how a pandemic can make you grateful. Little things all of the sudden seem like really big things. Things taken for granted before seem like the air needed to breathe.

Like many of you we’ve been trying to live by the pandemic guidelines for what seems like years now. While we’ve probably not been as strict as some we have been home in our little space living as full a life as possible while trying not to get too crazy. In a previous post I commented about living small and that the things most missed was seeing the kids and grand babies.

As the mandates started lifting we had a family get together for the first time in months. Our kids arriving with snacks to share and stories and conversations all around. The newest grand baby was introduced to some family for the first time on his 4 month birthday. It made this Nana’s heart so happy to see almost everyone together.

And then today, I saw all my children. In one day. All of them. I dropped lunch off to my son, dropped some coasters off to my oldest daughter and her husband, and got a little snuggle with the newest grand baby. Then stopped by my youngest daughters work for a hug and to congratulate her on her new place. As I left the parking lot of that last stop I was so grateful. Grateful I could see them, hug them, touch their faces. I’ve missed them so much.

A year ago I may have made those rounds, but I might also have put them off until the next day or another day. I probably would have looked at my to-do list and decided I didn’t have time to stop today. I would have reminded myself they were grown-ups and at work or that I had just seen them recently.

Today, you couldn’t have kept me away from them regardless of how far out of the way I had to drive or the number of others things I ‘should’ have been doing. Today, I am incredibly grateful I CAN stop and see them. I can hug them, kiss their faces, tell them I love them in person. So why wouldn’t I? All those reasons that a few months ago would have seemed logical and reasonable, now seem ridiculous.

A recent call to my Aunt reminded me of this truth as well, when she answered her phone and when asked said yes, she was in the middle of something but my call was more important. We’ve learned recently too that sometimes that time is the last time we have the chance.

So pandemic or loss or just because we want to, this is a good time to remember that now is that time to do and say and be all those things we think we have time to do tomorrow. We may have years yet, but we may not and either way that time spent stopping, reminding those we love that they are worth it and giving them that hug or making that call might be the memory that gets us through a time we can’t be together or until we meet again.

I’m going to keep stopping.

-rache

Social Media Minimalism

I haven’t written in a while.
So many things happening and yet nothing. I feel quieted and as if minimalism is more the norm now than not. Many of us doing less, and seeing so few people that writing about living minimally seems almost trite.

I’ve asked myself recently what minimalism looks like when everything seems to be at its most minimum right now. So many people still unseen. Adventures still on hold. Outings still scrutinized and reviewed. Even the way we are choosing to eat seems to have joined the minimalistic train. I’ll save that particular adventure for another blog, but eating Keto has proven to have many benefits for our particular needs and I’m enjoying seeing the results of that adventure and hard work.

A few weeks ago I woke with a feeling of discontent. Not an overall discontent with life or plans, more about how I was spending my days. MP is back to work full time after a wonderful summer off. We took full advantage of the minimal living by camping multiple times and really roughing it, choosing to go as remote as possible and live very small. We loved it.

On that particular morning I realized that I spend quite a bit of time, daily, reviewing my social media accounts. Its a half hour here, 20 minutes there. A quick update review between tasks. My phone gave me a percentage of time I had spent that week on Facebook and Instagram and I was surprised at the double digit number that was much higher than any other apps numbers. Had I really spent that much time scrolling through other peoples pictures, memes and shared comments? And if so, what else could I have been doing with that time that I am sure would have been of greater value?

I have also realized recently that often times, after I have spent the first part of my day scrolling that I don’t feel positive. I don’t feel like I am energized and ready to launch into a productive day. Actually, quite the opposite.

So with those personal observations, I decided to do a social media fast. I set a goal to not look at social media for 7 days. I figured that at the end of 7 days I would have a very good feel for how it felt to not be on social media and I could make some decisions on what to keep.

With that decision, I text my kids, told them the plan and reminded them that if they needed me I could still be reached through text messaging or phone and that I would still love them to send me photos of the grand babies! I found it intriguing that I quickly got asked if everything was ok? As if going off social media meant something might be wrong. I assured them I was fine and just taking a break.

It proved to be an interesting week. The first day I found myself ‘clicking’ or almost clicking on the apps on my phone strictly out of habit. I’d get on the elevator and go to click the app. I’d be waiting in the car and go to click the app. I’d be standing in line and pick up my phone to do a quick check. It was habit! I wasn’t even thinking about what I was about to view. Each time I’d stop myself but I was aware that my brain was not used to down time.

After the first day or so, that habit became less prevalent, but I found myself wondering how to use certain times of the day. Like, first thing in the morning while drinking coffee, or the last few minutes of the day between MP getting off work and that evening cocktail. I started looking for positive articles to read or blogs to scan about things that I find interesting or uplifting. I worked on my craft projects a little more and picked up a book I had stopped reading midway through, which meant recharging my kindle.

After the 5th day I wasn’t really missing it. My time was being used in more fulfilling ways. I felt better. I didn’t have useless information taking up space in my brain. Mostly, it felt quieter. I did miss the ‘stories’ where my kids post cute videos of their kids doing cute things that Nana’s like to see. But other than that, I wasn’t any worse for the wear.

At the seven day mark, I opened each app, curious on what I had missed and here is the thing that really kind of surprised me. I hadn’t really missed anything. There were about 50 posts on each, most of them adds for HGTV and some cute photos that although they were fun to see, didn’t really have anything at all to do with my life. I opened some pages I follow only to find people upset about this or that all of which had been fixed by the time I was looking at the information and none of which I would have commented on.

Let me say here that I am not anti-social media. I enjoy it as much as the next person, but what I did realize is its easy to get sucked into looking at it way more than one thinks they do. And when it all comes up at once, after 7 days I realized very quickly how little of it matters. How missing it didn’t affect me in any tangible way at all.

At the end of my 7 day minimalistic approach to social media, I committed to another 7 days. I made it about 5 before I looked again. I was bored and in a waiting room with nothing to do and so what did I do? I opened my social media accounts and began to scroll. Nothing had changed. It was all the same things and I realized that if I wanted to break this habit I had to plan to fill my time with something else. I had to bring my kindle with me. I had to have articles saved to read. I had to have headphones so I could listen to a podcast.

That fast started about 6 weeks ago. I did great the first week, good the second week and then I found myself starting to fall right back into the habit of mindlessly scrolling multiple times a day again. Its so easy. Its so available. Its mostly useless.

I’ve debated taking the apps off my phone. For some reason, even after realizing what I have, that seems extreme. I feel like I will somehow lose contact…with people…that I haven’t talked to in years. Hm….

For now, I am working again on another ‘fast’. I am only looking at social media twice a day. Not in the mornings and not before bed. I’m muting people and things that aren’t mostly positive or at least neutral. I’m trying to find things to read that inspire me daily and I’m writing more than I have in a long time. I’ve started journaling daily with the goal to write at least 500 words every day. I’m on day 50 and enjoying that practice very much.

I’m researching and finding new music and I’m following blogs about things that interest me and that I want to learn about. Finance, retirement, art, decorating, middle age career changes.

Overall, I feel like this was a good experiment in minimalism. Digital minimalism. While my journey may not be everyone’s, taking some time off from this form of entertainment taught me some good things about myself. I want to use my time better. I want to know at the end of the day I learned something of value and am a more well rounded person then when I woke up. I am quite sure at the end of my life I will not regret having not spent more time on social media.

Let me know what you think. Have you set limits on you scrolling time and if so how did you manage it?

Until next time,

Rache

Camping Adventures Minimalist Style

What a summer! Whew…I can barely believe its over when it feels like it just began. My husband, MP, is in public education, so when I say summer I mean the six weeks he has off between Mid June and August first. And in all transparency, he doesn’t really take the summer off. He teaches summer school, but his hours are much shorter and the days much more relaxed.

This is the first year I’ve ever been off with him. In years past I have still gotten up daily and headed to work as if nothing has changed. I always dallied a bit longer on those weeks he was off, often enjoying a little more coffee in the morning and a few extra minutes in the pool at night, but I’ve never not worked while he was off.

This summer was very different. Since I am still in my year off, we spent most mornings on our porch, sipping coffee and sharing things we were reading. We communicate in whispers those first few hours and often found ourselves making plans that started around 10am. It was wonderful and quiet and easy. We spent many hours talking about our future, making plans and running numbers. We both enjoy making sure we aren’t just getting stagnant or accepting the status quo as the only option.

One of the many adventures we had this summer, even in the midst of this pandemic, was camping. In the past we owned a comfortable little camper that we took out a few times each year, complete with a bed, shower, stove and although I never used it, a microwave. This wasn’t exactly roughing it but we enjoyed it for many years and created some great memories in it, including a 10 day trip down the Oregon coast. About three years ago we sold our camper because we thought we were done camping, exchanging our summer activities for warmer winter ones.

But, we changed our minds….again. As the summer was launching this year MP found a really cool tent that fits on the back of our truck along with a high quality air mattress that fits inside and over the wheel wells and our next adventure began. We re-bought what we thought were the minimums and decided we would try remote camping, which we hadn’t done prior. I like this about us. We sometimes take a path or discontinue a direction and then some time later decide we want back on that path. There is no wrong about it and it wasn’t a ‘bad’ decision. It was right at the time, and now it is something we want to try again. There is a lot of latitude given when you live like that. And in that train of thought, we decided this summer we weren’t done camping after all.

And so, off we went, and went and went again and again. We loved it! We didn’t stay anywhere that had hook ups and often went days without seeing another person. We packed in our water, had no power and used coolers for food. For some, this may sound like a typical camping trip but for us, it was all new. Did I mention how much we loved it? We had days where we took our camp chairs and sat in the river, watching eagles fly and fish jump in cool mountain streams. We were never in a rush, never pushed to be somewhere. We intentionally went places where there was no cell service, no phones and no internet. Often we had no contact with the outside world or even another person for the entire time we were gone. And not a day passed that I wasn’t in awe of nature and its beauty and how easy it was to live small.

We woke each morning and looked out the door of our tent to mountain peaks so high they still had snow and to the sound of the river gurgling just a few feet away. There was hardly a day I wasn’t brought to tears at the beauty and solace and peace I felt in those places. I can’t explain the quiet that came over my soul even as I cooked outdoors, did dishes in river water and drank cowboy coffee next to a fire each morning. Its quite an experience to live all of life outside for days. The quietness was intoxicating.

Now, I’m not going to pretend the hot shower didn’t feel like a luxury after four days or that making sure I rotated food based on our ice supply wasn’t nice to not have to worry about on our return. But choosing to live so small gave me an even greater appreciation for the things I often take for granted. There are few things better then the solitude of nature and being there minimally gave me a whole new appreciation for how amazing some of our conveniences are.

MP fly fishing in Stanley Idaho

MP documents his take on our camping adventures here and has some other great take-a-ways you might like along with some fun photos. Plus, he’s a great blogger and I’m sure you’ll enjoy some of his insights as well.

I have my next blog already in the making because camping allowed me the quiet to really think, process and understand how much impact the noise of life can have on a person. For now though, the solitude of ‘roughing it’ was something I will not soon forget. The opportunity to be with MP all summer, to dream and plan and begin to shape our next steps was invaluable and allowed because of the quiet opportunity we took to live off the grid for a bit.

I look forward to sharing my newest adventure soon. I don’t think I’m alone in the pursuit for quiet and I anticipate many of you will relate to my newest insight into minimalism.

Until then,

-rache

Kindness Shouldn’t be Hard

I am a donator. I really enjoy donating things. Things like clothes, household items, things from the garage. Whatever I think someone else might find usable, I donate. I’ve been known, much to MP’s chagrin, to keep bags in the back of my car for a week or so, until I can get somewhere to drop things off. I donate other things too, like empty soda cans. I recently received a text from the mom of the boys I take all our cans to saying the boys had just purchased their own cow thanks, in part, to my donations.

I LOVE that feeling. Knowing some small amount of effort on my part helped someone else.

When we moved last year I probably made 25+ trips to a local charity that helps kids and has stores in the area I live to resell donated items. If someone had been watching closely I’m pretty sure they could have outfitted an entire apartment.

I come by this love of donating naturally. My Gran used to enjoy spending a whole day at what she would call Goodie Store Shopping. She would take her time looking at items and things people had donated and consider their story and I have a few things from her still that she just picked up and sent my way because they “reminded her of me”. They are treasures to me.

I think I enjoy donating for a few reasons. I like that someone might be able to use something that no longer fits or works for one person but might be the perfect thing for its next owner. I like the idea that maybe someone is looking for that perfect job or outfitting their house for the first time but don’t have enough money to purchase everything brand new so the items I donate lets them create that perfect outfit or room. I like that I am not filling landfills with things that are still usable. And deep down, I like knowing that things are given a second chance at being special.

This week I decided we needed a clean out. I know, huh? We just moved here a year ago and downsized by half, what could I possibly need to clean out? But like many of us know, stuff just starts to accumulate. I had some items in my closet that are now too big, (thanks to the Keto journey MP and I are on. Check out his blog about that here….. ). I also had A LOT of craft supplies that I couldn’t part with when we moved but that I am now realizing I’m not going to use after all. And I had saved a lot of my office supplies when I took my sabbatical earlier this year and now realize that if/when I do go back to work, I won’t want those things any more. So I began the process of filling bags for donating.

One bag, two bags, three bags, more… And I smiled. I love this part.

After filling a few bags, or more, I took them down to my car knowing I’d be out on Monday and planned to drop them off. Their hours are 9-6. I know those from memory. 🙂 I made another bag for a friend who crafts as well but in completely different ways then me and I knew the material would be perfect for her Gnomes.

Then Sunday afternoon I decided to clean out our pantry. (Maybe I’m nesting…MP is getting nervous). Since the Keto thing is going so well, (see MP’s blog above) I decided that all the things in the cupboard could be donated to a local food bank. After all, 5 boxes of pasta, a bunch of stove top stuffing, bags of white rice and some Jiffy mix are no longer on the menu. So I filled another large bag for the back of my car with high hopes of dropping them off Monday too.

So yesterday, on my way to Costco I went the long way around and pulled into the parking lot of my favorite charity. Sadly, a large sign and caution tape said that due to COVID-19 they were only taking donations on Thursdays and Fridays now. I don’t really understand the logic, but away I went deciding to try their other location the next day.

Today, I went to the local food bank whose hours online say they are open daily from 12-4. I arrived at 1pm. After following the signs around to the back of the building, and standing at the back door ringing the bell, twice, I saw the sign that said due to COVID they are only taking donations on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Its ok, I was right near another location of the place I went to yesterday. They too were not open for donations today.

Big Sigh** “This should not be this hard, after all, I’m trying to do something good!” Followed by some frustration and if I’m being honest, a few choice words. Not that loudly though.

Again, I don’t understand the reasoning behind not being able to donate at a time when people are really in need. I began to think my efforts were being thwarted and maybe I was just making this more difficult then it needed to be and it could all go in the trash. After all, what good really are a few boxes of pasta and some clothes? My mind replayed the angry drivers, the pissed off people waiting in lines and the overall wound up, stressed out humans I’ve encountered since the onset of COVID has changed how we live. I thought about how Kindness seems to be needed more then ever but is getting lost in the buzz of frustrations and worry.

I paused a minute and remembered I have a choice. I can go back out tomorrow and again on Friday and make the drop offs. I have the time and the ability and the things in those bags will make someone smile or fill an empty tummy. Kindness shouldn’t be hard. It should be about who we are and how we want to impact our world for the better. Like the smile from the masked clerk at Costco who asks how your day is, or the overly zealous Dutch Brothers barista who really does want to know my favorite color. A smile, or a bag off clothes or food is a gift and I don’t want it not being convenient for me to drop off to change my heart about why I give.

Kindness shouldn’t be hard. We can choose it every day in how we talk to our kids or our spouse, how we treat the clerk at the gas station or our attitude when things don’t fit our schedule perfectly. It can be what makes us different from everyone else in the best possible way.

So, I’ll keep packing bags or boxes and I’ll let them bounce around in the back of my car until somewhere is open that will use them again. And when I do get the chance to drop them off, I’ll pass them along to who ever takes them and smile behind my mask knowing that Kindness isn’t hard.

Thanks for reading. I hope in this time when we seem overwhelmed by the negative, this blog brings a smile to your face. Feel free to leave me your thoughts below.

-rache

Little things called Love

It’s funny how sometimes something seeming very insignificant can catch your eye and hold your attention. Or your heart.

MP and I went on a bike ride yesterday in our beautiful city of Boise along the greenbelt. It is a paved path along the river and through some neighborhoods and animal sanctuaries and a favorite of many who live locally for a nature filled walk, a fun bike ride or a peaceful run. Yesterday was a perfect 80 degrees and people were out enjoying the sunshine, the companionship we’ve all been missing and the ability to do something outdoors.

I took a quiet break from our ride to sit on a large rock near the river and near a restaurant that had outside seating and live music. The breeze was adding a perfect addition to the sound of the river, laughter of children and the chatter of people enjoying life. As I sat, a mother and her two pre-teen’s and their two dogs came and sat nearby, allowing their dogs to play in the river. I noticed right away that the kids were respected by their mom. Conversation flowing easily and each being allowed their turn and opinion. After sitting a bit, a server from the restaurant across the path brought them a bag of what looked like an order they must have placed for take out. They quickly decided to sit there by the river and eat.

When they each opened their beautifully boxed lunch it was quickly discovered that the young boys burger had come with cheese, which based on the response was not his favorite. His mom asked if he wanted her to take it off or reorder the meal. While I didn’t actually hear the response I watched as his mom carefully took his burger apart and stated to take the cheese off his sandwich. Unfortunately it had melted quite nicely. The mom, meticulously started to wipe the cheese off line by line with her finger. She would run her finger across the top of the burger, scraping off the cheese, lick her finger off, then do the next area. This mom worked to get all the cheese off for about 5 minutes and at the end asked he son it it looked like something he would want to eat now.

I have to admit there is a small part of me that thought maybe he could have just eaten it with cheese, but I love cheese so that’s not a very fair request for someone who might not. I on the other hand do not like ketchup and have often found myself scraping my burger when its been added by mistake, so I felt his pain. What was intriguing to me was her care for his desire to not have cheese on his burger. She calmly and lovingly did what was needed to make that a positive experience for him.

And I thought, as I have many times recently, that love can look like a lot of different things and maybe from the outside, be missed as just an act of life.

This thought first came to mind as I sat on the patio of my Aunts house during a recent visit to her and my Grans home. I spent 10 days with the two of them, watching as my Aunt lovingly cared for my 93 year old Grandmother and her little dog. Over the course of those 10 days I saw the daughter help the aged mother with her showers, her meals, her daily meds and her worry. She answered the same questions throughout most days over and over and always looked with intrigue every time my Gran mentioned the beautiful cloud formations. She took Gran on rides to get us all out of the house for a bit all the while checking in to make sure Gran was always doing ok and always treating her with respect. I knew I was seeing something unique throughout the week as I witnessed what love looked like in action.

The day before I was headed home, the three of us sat on the patio in the warm afternoon sun as my Aunt gave my beautiful Gran a much needed pedicure. She brought warm water in a tub, carefully removed the polish off each toe, and then lovingly asked before each clip of the clipper if it was ok, while she removed the thickened, yellowed nails. My Gran watched with concern but was never hurt as my Aunt took her time, again checking with every single clip to make sure it wasn’t going to hurt. As I watched, I was overwhelmed by the act of love I was given the opportunity to witness. There was no eye role or cross word. There was no demeaning chide as my Gran worried. Instead there was just love. And on any other given day in their lives it would have gone unnoticed and unseen.

That’s how acts of love are most of the time I think. It’s the meal that’s cooked, the bed that’s made with care, the special note in a suitcase as one leaves for travel. How easy it is to see the large things, the showy things as love. But really, love is shown in all the small things. MP always says there are no small things, and as I witnessed with tears rolling down my face, it is the smallest of things, like clipping someones toe nails, that say someone is loved. Love is all those little things. All those day to day thoughts put into actions that remind us that love is a verb. It is what we do not just how we feel about someone or words that we say.

I thought back over my relationship with my Gran as I watched this fragile woman continue to try and navigate her existence with grace. She and I had a special bond. We shared a lot of life in common. She was a gentle soul that always made me feel loved and special. Her worn hands held my face everyday I was there as she reminded me how much she loved me. She told me never to forget. And I won’t because her unconditional love for me was so many times in her actions. Her little gifts tucked in my suitcase that I would find after spending time with her. Holding my hand as a 40 year old woman as we walked the beach together and shared our hearts. Walking my children to school when she came to visit when they were young. Sitting next to me as I painted, commenting on each aspect of the art I was creating. As I look around my home even now, there are traces of her everywhere. A note she left me in a watering can magnet 20 years ago. A little sign reminding me I am loved every day with Gran’s little signature at the bottom, a pencil drawn smiley face with curly hair in the ‘G’ of her name.

We lost my beautiful Gran just days after I returned home from that visit last month. I will cherish those moments with her forever and will be eternally grateful for being able to witness what love looks like in action. I feel blessed to have been a quiet observer of things recently that remind me that love is patient, love is kind and…love is a gift. Not only one we receive but one we give in many small, often unseen forms.

I am blessed to have known such love. Such unconditional love from a woman who was not raised being loved well. And yet, she loved others perfectly and wholly as they were. Thank you for your example of love Aunt Sue and thank you to Gran for always loving me unconditionally. I know you’re happy and healthy and enjoying so many you lost too early. So many here miss you and always will.

Until I see you again, I will remember always being loved by you.

-rache

Creative Minimalism

As many of you know about a year ago we embarked on a journey towards debt free and a lifestyle of minimalism. It’s taken lots of different directions from the path we thought we had outlined in January of 2019, but all of them have worked for our good. With the recent changes in our culture, our cities and our lives due to COVID-19, I’ve been contemplating our decisions in this new reality. If I had known a year ago what I know today, would I have made the same choices? Or more precisely, how is minimalism effecting how we are living in this time of isolation? These quandaries were voiced recently by my Dad on a Sunday family call with my siblings. He asked how it was different living in a condo then in a home right now. And its a legit question..because it is different.

  1. At the House of Wales I never wondered who else had pushed the elevator buttons.
    Yep. Living in a single family dwelling means that when you arrive at home each night and close the garage door you are in and safe and everything there is yours. In our new space, I pull in, close the garage door, walk across the parking lot, fob into a community door, walk onto a community elevator and push the number four along with the other 40 tenants who live on that floor. I would be untruthful to say that hasn’t cause me a bit of concern. But, no more than checking a mail box, or opening a door at the grocery store. The great part about living in community is that everyone is working together to beat this thing, so people allow others to ride the elevator to their floor alone, smiling when saying “I’ll wait for the next one”. No one is offended if you don’t get on with them but everyone smiles! That knowing smile of hey…you live here too and this sucks, but…isn’t it great to see another human today? I have to say I like it.
  2. There is no place in either of our homes that I am not aware of where MP is.
    This is another truth to minimal living. Neither of our homes have a downstairs. No second floor to go spend time in. No extra bedrooms where one can just go and not be aware of the other person. At the House of Wales I had an art studio that took up half the downstairs and MP had one whole bedroom set up as a gym. They were cool spaces and we enjoyed them. But even as I type, MP is in his office/my craft room/his music room playing drums and I am in our bedroom at our second desk writing this blog. Its working just fine and I like the idea that we can both live full, invigorating lives in half the room we used to have.
  3. This wasn’t the plan.
    When we moved here and I stopped working we didn’t know COVID-19 was on the way. We didn’t know we’d be confined to our homes for weeks at a time. We thought there would still be all this outside living at both our places. And like everyone who is being asked to stay in I know both MP and I wondered what the days would look like. It was one thing to shrink our living with the understanding we both had free roam of the outside world, but what does working, sleeping, living, breathing in 980 square feet look like when neither of us can leave? Its made us inventive. I ask about his meetings for the day and plan my routine around when he might need absolute quiet or when I want to be out of earshot of his conversation. Today I painted, I wrote, I made three cards, I worked out, talked to my daughter and read some inspiring blogs by people I admire. I have dinner in the crock pot and tried my hand at corn bread for the first time in 30 years. (I think its flat, but might still be edible). I don’t feel any more or less confined then I would have with 2000 sq feet and I’m enjoying the challenge of working together to find the space we both need.
  4. MP set up a gym in our garage
    Gyming is a big part of MP’s life and I am finding my way back into it as well. So when we heard all gyms were being closed we had to come up with a new plan. I had been swimming while in Mesa but Boise weather is not as conducive to that form of exercise. So, MP goes down most days, pulls my car out and sets up a ‘gym’. He is really creative and enjoys finding ways to ensure a good work out. My legs and arms are sore even as I type with what some might have thought silly exercise that we did yesterday. But, obviously they worked! Now, do we have a huge weight rack and bench thing… or a treadmill or stationary bike to ride? Nope, we do not. So we get creative! MP has a bike route set up for me/us around the complex that will incorporate just enough hills to get my heart rate up for a cardio work out, while being outside and away from people. I have to wear a rain coat some days, but its better then sitting around all day doing nothing. And I really like that I’m married to a guy that is creative and rather then gripe about what we don’t have, makes a new way for us to stay fit. Is it ideal, maybe not, but we laugh a lot and seem to be just as sweaty after a work out.

    So, did we know when we sold our house and opted for this minimal way of living we’d be in lock down in this smaller space? No we did not. Would it have changed my mind if I had known? No way. I’m not missing anything except our kids and their kids and a bigger house, more debt and more stuff wouldn’t have made one bit of difference in that missing. I do know, for sure, that when I see those kids of mine and their babies, I’m not going to wish I was hugging them in a bigger kitchen. I just going to hold them close, take in every bit of them, look into their eyes, push their hair aside and kiss their faces. And no amount of square footage or stuff would make that any sweeter then its going to be.

    Until next time, stay safe and well.

    -rache


There is No Better Time

In February of this year I went to our vacation home in Arizona to spend some time in the sun. It was after the new grand baby arrived and prior to the COVID-10 virus arrival. I always love it there and although we lovingly refer to it as our baby house, the outdoor living that is affords due to the beautiful weather makes it feel like I have a whole park to live in.

One morning while there I was enjoying the morning sun in the back of our house, coffee in hand, wearing my jammies, palm trees gently sharing their ‘song’ as the breeze rustled their leaves. It was gorgeous. I was in a blissful and wonderful place, very aware of how blessed I was. While in Arizona I had been continuing my quest for personal growth by reading, working out and walking daily. I had found a place to volunteer a couple times a week and I also picked up a new craft, dot painting, that was really fulfilling my creative appetite and that morning I was reflecting on the journey and the path and feeling incredibly grateful for it all.

As I sat thinking on the day, one of my back neighbors got a visitor and my ears perked up as I heard the visitor say, “Good morning. How are you?” A typical greeting and one we all hear or even ask many times a day. In our little village in Arizona, I am probably greeted 50+ times a day by someone outside or on their patios. Every dog walker, biker and leisurely stroller greets each other with a wave, a smile and often a comment on the day or a question of how you are. It’s so common as a matter of fact, that when someone fails to do it, it is out of the ordinary and honestly uncomfortable. Anyway, on this particular morning it wasn’t the greeting or the question about the day that caught me off guard, it was the answer.

When asked, how are you today the answer was…”Well, things could always be better.”

Wait, what? Things could always be better? While I guess that answer is true, it is also bleak and unsatisfied and depressing. I looked around again. Was this person, just 100 yards from me, not seeing the same things I was seeing? Was he not feeling the warm sun at 10am? Was he not aware that none of us wore a coat, a sweater or even long pants? While much of the US was under snow we sat in 70+ degrees, sun shining at full blast, people out living life in a resort community where four pools, live music and any number of activities were are our disposal 24 hours a day. How could life be any better?

As I have contemplated that conversation over the last few weeks, and as the corona virus has taken hold of the US, I have been considering my own outlook on things including many of the changes to my daily routines. I know the half full vs half empty idea and I know everyone gets to see everything through their own whatever-they-choose colored glasses, but it reminded me again that I have control of how I perceive things. I can choose how I see things, circumstances, even how I interpret the actions of the people around me.

Like many of you, I’ve read many of the encouraging blogs the last few weeks about things to try at home while staying in. I’ve seen the cute videos of kids building forts, moms and kids baking treats, and dad’s doing push ups with kids on their backs. Everyone trying to make the best of where they are. Because they have a choice, just like I do to make this time at home something amazing or something I just get through.

While I think about my journey and my path of leaving corporate America a few months ago, I am aware that the slowing down can be difficult, and even more so for those who are unsure of a paycheck or when they will be back at it again. We work at such a frantic pace sometimes that when we have the opportunity to slow down, it can be very difficult to know what to do with ourselves, with our thoughts or even our emotions. It takes time for our minds to come off the treadmill that has been running at full speed for sometimes years. I know when I stopped working it took weeks for me to realize I didn’t need to be watching the clock, preparing for the next meeting or scanning my brain for the details that made up my day. And it was uncomfortable. I had the fortunate opportunity to know my work days were coming to an end and was able to make some plans for how to fill my days prior to being home. I know that has not been the case for everyone with this pandemic creating change by the hour and that can make this all the more unsettling.

But here is what I learned and am continuing to learn daily. Every day is an opportunity and it all depends on how I look at it as to how it will turn out. One option is to decide that ‘things could always be better’ and to sit and wait for things to improve while narrating in my mind all the possible negative outcomes this down time might create.

But another option is to decide that this is the best day ever and make the most of it. How many times while working, I wished for a quiet day with no responsibilities to just have time to read a book, sleep late or spend time with my kids. How many times I would have been so grateful to not set an alarm, make the morning commute, meet with an angry client or let some one go. A one or two or three day respite would have seemed like a dream come true and I had lists of things I would do if I ever got the time.

By no means am I trying to say that this isn’t stressful. That not working doesn’t have a huge impact on families that are not only financial, but emotional as well. But, maybe, just maybe we could each use this time to do something we’ve been putting off for while. Maybe learning a new craft, reading a book that we’ve had on the shelf for years, creating a new dinner or calling a friend we haven’t heard from in a while. We don’t have control of many of the things going on in our world right now. We may not have control over when/where we work, what we can buy at the grocery store or who we can see daily, but we do have control over some other things. Our attitude. The thoughts we let ourselves listen to and believe. How we treat the ones we are housing with. How we spend the hours we are being given. We have the opportunity to really slow down and we get to decide exactly what to do with our time for a bit.

What if we used this time to come out on the other side better people? I have had the gift of being off for three months now, and have been thinking along these lines since late December. When I look back in a year, what do I want to know I did during that time? What new skills do I want to have? What things do I want to have given so much priority to that they stick when life transitions again?

As I started this year off, these are some of the questions I asked myself and continue to ask myself. I want to be a better me at the end of my time off and on a smaller scale I wonder if these same questions could be used during our ‘time off’ for COVID-19. Maybe its time to start a bedtime routine with our kids that we were always too tired for. Or maybe its learning that cooking is fun. Or maybe, its just time to rest for a while, to recoup from the high speed at which we notoriously run our lives.

Whatever it is or however we each choose to use this unique time, I for one want to look at every day not deciding it could be better but realizing I can make it the best day. What things are you doing that you’re excited to finally have time to try? Is there anything you have forgotten you’d like to add to your life but just couldn’t find the time? Today is our day! Lets agree to use this time in such a way that we look back on it and know we made the most of it.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. It has been an amazing 3 months and I know there is so much more yet to come. I look forward to the continued growth, the things I am continuing to understand about myself and the next grand adventure.

Until next time.

-rache

5 Things I’ve learned about Me in the first 60 Days

For 30 years I have been sure about my role. Who I was. I’ve not worked all of that time but even when I took time off to raise my babies or switched positions, I still knew who I was. I was her/his mom, his wife, their boss, the manager, Nana. I had not anticipated my identity being unclear. Who Am I without a title? Or a paycheck?

Maybe a better question and one I have been spending a considerable amount of time contemplating is…Who Do I Want To Be? What an amazing opportunity to be able to ask this question at this point in my life. I believe so many of us get on a path long before we know who we are or want to be, but more because the college placement test said we had an aptitude for, fill in the blank. Or like me, a physician sees something in a young women, working in a lumber yard, and hires her to run his private office. Fast forward 25 years and I’m running groups of surgeons, never really having thought too much about if I liked what I was doing; it was just what I did.

Now, two months into this new life of not working, I’m wondering what I want to do when I grow up, or more precisely, Who I want to be. And I’m learning some really valuable things about myself that I am not sure I would have learned until much later, if ever, without this time of healing and regrouping.

I need to be Creative
The first thing I am learning or maybe just becoming more aware of than ever before is that I need to create. It is part of my core. Without the ability to be creative I lose my ability to be creative. Its a circle for me. The more creative I am the more creative my brain can and wants to be and I have to feed that need. It is healthy and allows and provides great joy in my life. I did some travel recently and thought I could just not create during that time. That I would be ok not doing anything creative. Whether it be painting, paper crafting, knitting or macrame, I thought I could just go without for a bit. I was wrong. Without that creative stimuli I am not thinking creatively. I find myself blank as I try to consider new projects that I should be seeing options for. My brain is wired to create and not doing so alters what I can see as possibilities for everything. So this week, with a friend’s generous offer to borrow her craft box, I painted. And was reminded how much I love it! I found myself smiling as I filled water bowls and laid out paint and canvas. Creativity is part of who I am and I need to make sure it stays as one of my top priorities.

I need to Give Back
Another thing I’m learning is that while I am enjoying the opportunity to focus on me, getting healthy and strong again, I can’t do that for 8 hours a day…or more. I have found a quiet rhythm to my mornings that I am enjoying. It includes some quiet reading, yoga, a workout that varies based on how I feel on any given day, a study that is pointing me towards my purpose and meditation. It also includes meal planning, shopping and prep which I really enjoy and some other little household tasks. But as I approach the 8 week mark, I am understanding that I am not going to be ok living days on end focused only on myself.

With that in mind, I have volunteered to help out locally. I need to give something back. I don’t need to own anything and I don’t want to manage any one, I just want to interact with people, have a purpose and feel like I’m doing something good. I’ll find a niche, but for now a few hours each week volunteering is just fun and really fulfilling.

You really can wash your Hair every other day
Ok, this one may sound a little silly but I’ve just always been afraid to try not washing my hair daily. Even when it was long, it got washed and blow dried every day. I was always worried that if I tried it and it looked awful, I’d still have to go to work and well..have a bad hair day. So, with the encouragement of my stylist and no ‘work’ to show up looking bad for, I tried it. And what do you know…its really can work! I might be the last person on the planet to get it, but I’d say BIG life lesson learned. More so in broader terms though, of being willing to try new things or things I’ve been too afraid to try before.

I need a balance of Alone Time and Together time
I’m discovering that I am not very comfortable doing things alone. I grew up in a large family, so alone time was a rarity and as an adult I have worked in places surrounded by people. In all my jobs I usually had a lunch buddy and then had my family when I got home. For years I had close friends who I planned most outings with ensuring I rarely did activities alone. And if given a choice, I’ll usually pass on an activity even if I really wanted to do it, if I have to do it by myself. As I look back, I can even see one promising job that left me alone for hours on end every day. I was so discouraged by the atmosphere I left after only 8 weeks.

So, part of my experience of growth that is becoming clear is learning to be bold and brave enough to do more things by myself. And for me, that is not a understatement. Sometimes I have to literally tell myself, out loud, to be brave. Not for things like going to the grocery store, but to know that for a majority of days I need to actively seek out and find activities to fill my time and much of that time might mean doing things alone since my husband is still working.

I’m learning though. I have found multiple activities that I have now marked on my calendar to do weekly that I enjoy immensely. One is listening to a musical group that get together for a jam session weekly. I stumbled onto it one day and have made it part of my routine to go listen. I’m engaging with a new group of friends who have a similar schedule as mine and I’m looking for new things to try including a jewelry making day. Ironically, I am also learning that while I enjoying doing activities with others I also enjoy some down or quiet time. I used to have it on my commute to and from work. An hour or so to just listen to music, pray, and be with my own thoughts. Finding the perfect balance is the key and I’m enjoying the process and finding new activities and friends along the way.

I really Enjoy Yoga
Yoga has always been a bit intimidating to me. All those crazy poses, held by lithe, long haired beauties all smiling while toning and being fit. I imagined them easily sliding between each pose never needing to pause or give themselves space to just be still. But, with the encouragement of my daughter and with my decision to do what it takes to get healthy, I committed to 30 days of at home Yoga. And while I have not turned into that lithe and toned 30 year old yet, I feel so much better. I enjoy that time in the morning allowing my body to stretch and learn itself and its boundaries. I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress I’ve made in a short time and I know I feel better on the days I do it. I’ve even started using Yoga for specific needs if I wake up with hip or back pain. I’d say the practice of Yoga will be one of those things I do for the rest of my life. What a cool age to try something new and love it!

I still wake up every day amazed that I get to be here doing what I am doing, or not doing. And while I never want to be patronizing, this whole learning yourself at 51 is hard work. Learning who I am and more importantly, who I want to be is an amazing, sometimes tear-filled and often surprising journey.

If you’re like me, we sometimes look forward to retirement thinking how nice it will be to have nothing to do. And I get it. With the schedule and race so many of us run it can be an amazing thought. And can even be something we choose to do, nothing that is, for a while. But the last thing I’m learning quickly, mostly because this life transition happened without a lot of heads up, is how important it is that we discover who we are and the things that bring us meaning, joy and purpose because day after day of nothing to do can be as taxing on ones soul as being overwhelmed. We are made to have purpose and live our best life. I am enjoying the journey of self discovery, even if its sometimes uncomfortable, to know a better me, the person I really want and am supposed to be.

While this is not a complete list of what I’ve learned so far, it is the top few things that were most surprising to this point. I have a hunch this list will continue to grow as I live out this adventure. What are you learning about yourself that is surprising you? I’d be interested to know if you’ve discovered things about yourself that you didn’t realize before and how you’re incorporating those things into your life.

Until next time…

-rache


Meetings

Back in May I received a call from my oldest daughter that she was pregnant. It was not a call I ever really anticipated receiving from her and amid her tears of joy and fear and anticipation she allowed me to be part of that day along with many others throughout her pregnancy, including all her ultra-sounds and many of her visits. Then last week, I was given the privilege of being with her while she labored valiantly and with honor. After 18 hours, she had a c-section with her husband by her side bringing into this world and all our lives, a beautiful, 8lb 2oz baby boy.

Within minutes of his delivery, she encouraged her husband to bring the baby into the recovery room and share him with me and my heart is forever changed. As their sweet baby was handed to me I was overwhelmed by their generosity of sharing him in those first few moments of his life and it has created a memory and a bond that can never be forgotten.

That was a week ago now and as I reflect back on that day, those moments, the memories, I am grateful again for this time away from work, living minimally and listening to my soul. Did I mention that he was born at 11:57pm? For those of you who have had a baby you know that that means they didn’t get out of recovery and into their room until well after 3am. Lets just say, it was a late night all around. And while I was grateful to hit the pillow that night (morning) I was keenly aware of the things I was not worried about.

I wasn’t worried about calling into work 4 hours later to let them know I’d need another day off. I was aware that not once during that precious time while my daughter was in labor did my phone go off with questions that would have pulled my attention from her. I was reminded that I wasn’t worried about any meetings I was missing, any places I needed to be or any things that were happening that I should have been overseeing. I had spent an entire 24 hours, totally focused on what was important. What an amazing and wonderful gift. To be able to be fully present as another human came into this world. This was a bonus from our decisions that I had not anticipated.

Joshua Becker says in his blog, Becoming Minimalist, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing everything that distracts us from it.” I would say that my day last week was the pinnacle of those choices in our life thus far and enabled us to have time and space to be present for the things we most value.

I am happy to say that our sweet lil’ man is doing great. Eating and sleeping, with a calmness about him that I know was created by parents who intentionally grew him in an environment that promoted peace. Mama is doing well too. Her commitment to the things that she values, all through her pregnancy, which included clean eating, daily yoga right up to baby’s delivery and a home filled with a calm, peaceful love are already being seen in their son. His sweet demeanor and calm spirit are traits we see clearly. He is a testament to the intentional promotion of things most valued.

As for me, his Nana, I just continue to feel blessed. This has been a wonderful week. I have been free to be available as needed to my daughter and her new family, without guilt or worry. I’ve not missed a minute of it. It’s one of those experiences I had no idea would alter my understanding of grand-parenting and positively rock my world to the extent it has. Who knew meetings could be so sweet?

Man, I love this life!