How’s that working for you?

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Not my actual house.

I’m not a very tidy person. My room was always a mess, but I almost always knew where things were. My mom would beg me to clean it and I would refuse every time, making it into a huge argument. Most times after I tidied, I could never find my things again. I haven’t really outgrown this, but I have learned a few things about it (I always have more things than places to put them, which is why everything is a mess; I’m lazy to tidy until things get so bad and then I’m so overwhelmed and feel unable to fix it… These two things are probably worth a few blogposts in themselves).

Having an 18 month old has been teaching me about how much stuff I have and how much it is always out. Since he can now climb up on chairs and access the dining table (which is a notorious “hot spot” of cluttered items waiting to be put away), suddenly it seems there are no safe places for our junk.
I’m finally realizing that my “system” of “crap everywhere” is starting to cause me more grief than the small time it could take to put it away. For a solid 29 years, I got away with leaving my junk all over. As Dr. Phil always asked, “How’s that working for you?” It worked. But now my papers, books, wallets, purses are being put at risk of being torn, eaten, pulled apart, or coloured on.
To be sure, we haven’t mastered this; we still have quite a ways to go. And despite these #toddlerdays being really difficult and trying, things are a lot easier when there’s nothing for him to get into. And that’s on me!

Two years!

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Last fall, Willy and I went to a couples retreat in Tremblant, QC hosted by Family Life (highly recommended by both Willy and I by the way). One of the exercises they had us do was to write a letter to each other. They gave some suggestions of what to write, which was helpful. I was surprised by how similar our letters were to each other in that they were the perfect inverse.

I told him that this one thing drove me crazy when we were first married.
This one thing, I was a little worried about.
This one thing, had even caused me to burst into tears in the middle of a conversation.
But this one thing was also the characteristic that challenged me in a good way. It made me think a little differently.
I grew as a person because of this one thing.

I smiled as I read his letter to me out loud because he said a lot of the same things. 

That one thing drove him crazy when we were first married.
That one thing about me worried him.
That one thing made him wonder if I would harm our relationship.
That one thing was the exact characteristic that I was re-evaluating, inching a little closer to his complete opposite, all the while he was inching a little closer to my complete opposite.
He was growing because of that one thing.

In just over a year of marriage we were already becoming more understanding, more gracious.

Thanks to Willy, I:

  • am learning that it’s not about the nail (we’re the opposite of this video!)
  • understand the power of words and am learning to choose them wisely in all circumstances
  • have more hope for humanity. He is more loving, generous, and committed than I thought even existed these days
  • am learning how to love my family more and be nicer

He pushes me to be better; there’s this sweet safe spot where I know I can trust him, even if it seems scary.

There’s no one I would rather be with on this Bucket List Journey. 

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For my mom, on her birthday.

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Today my mom turns 30 “with 20ish years experience” (as she always says). Like all moms, she was a huge influence in my life and in the way I do things now. It became even more apparent when I married Willy. I would hear her voice in my head chiding me for this or that. I thought I had been free from that voice, but the moment I started building my own home, her voice came back to haunt me. In a good way, mostly.

Here are some valuable life lessons I learned from my mom:

  1. You might really, really, really want to throw your newborn baby out the window. That’s somewhat normal. Don’t actually do it. (My mother-in-law has similarly passed on the advice: “It’s ok to want to throw your baby out the window, but it’s not ok to actually do it). I was SHOCKED when I first heard her make reference to this when I was 12. Now I realize that most moms experience this at least once in their mom-hood.
  2. Saying ‘no’ is OK. Unless you’re talking back to your parents (but I did that anyways).
  3. You can have a stubborn, fierce, mischievous child (who fakes her own death and says inappropriate things at church) and keep most of your sanity. (That child was me, in case you had any doubts).
  4. You can get 10%-15% off if you find broken things in a store and demand a discount. You can also argue with your phone company and refuse to pay charges  you didn’t incur. This is known in our family as the “Scary Lady Routine.” She used to do this all the time, especially with clothing items she could fix herself easily.
  5. When doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with you (and don’t seem to care) it’s your mom who will do the Scary Lady Routine on your doctor, too, until you find some answers.
  6. Don’t ever compromise on what you believe. 
  7. It’s ok to be a little crazy. If you get too crazy, there are meds for that and that’s also OK. 
  8. Emotions are like the lights on your car’s dashboard: they help you understand what’s going on under the hood.
  9. If your kids are a little adventurous, rather than stifling it for fear of them getting hurt: teach them how to fall safely. One day she when I was 3 she found me on the top of the swing-set. After she made me get down, she enrolled me into gymnastics. ”

Mom, thanks for being a good mom-model and showing me how to be better at life! Happy Birthday!

The difficulty of living simply

Recently my husband and I have been thinking about living more simply. From my perspective it comes from realizing that I have too much choice in my life it’s come to stress me out. I’ve written before about decision fatigue which is something I am still learning to manage. My husband is realizing that we just keep getting more stuff, more books (which we love), more things and we have limited space in our 5 1/2 downtown Montreal. When it comes time for us to get a bigger place we want it to be because of a growing family, not because of growing stuff.

I recently leafed through Organized Simplicity by Tsh from Simplemom.net and found it pretty refreshing. Once we get back home from living in suitcases all summer, I’d like to take some time to start giving stuff away starting with another clothes swap (and promise myself I wont take anything unless it’s a MUST).

I posted a question on Facebook to see if people had any helpful suggestions from my friends about how to manage this. In my mind it’s not just about the stuff I have, it’s also about paring down my life to fit in more of the things I want to do and require a lot less mental energy to do it.

Working full-time while being a whole person with likes and dislikes and hobbies and friends and a husband is hard even when your husband does as much work around the house as you do!

As I read some of those responses they were all mostly helpful but I realized none of them were addressing my real problem entirely. Some shared that they had anxiety over a scarcity mentality, as if if they gave away their things they could never get something like it back. I totally get that perspective. But more real is this question:

How do learn to want less? How do I learn to care less about things that are being marketed to me as important?  Why do I want ALL THE THINGS?

want-all-the-thingsI talk about changing habits often on this blog but I rarely talk about changing hearts and desires. One does not simply just change one’s own heart. I know wanting certain things isn’t bad necessarily. In this case, sometimes I think the underlying want in my life is controlling and driving my decisions which is dumb.

This essay entitled “It’s Not Me, It’s the Mall” and a few other articles (that I’ll post later) lead me to believe that this problem of the ‘tyranny of choice’ isn’t just affecting a few of us.

Practically, since I am living out of a suitcase this summer, I’ll have an easy go of it: anything left in my drawers at home by the end of the summer is gone. Anything I didn’t wear regularly this summer in my suitcases is gone. Simple? Probably not. It will likely be embarrassingly difficult. But it’s a start.

6 things about Nanowrimo 2012

It was surprisingly easy this time around.

I’m a little embarrassed by how easy it was. I guess my life is not really all that busy or I can write like a machine compared to the first time I did Nanowrimo 8 years ago. But it was quite easy. Then I surprised myself by accidentally finishing two days early! These are not meant to be brags! I’m honestly shocked and like I said, embarrassed. I’m embarrassed because I’m hearing ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s about how I’m writing a novel (which isn’t a big deal because people do it all the time with Nanowrimo) and people make it sound like it’s hard when it’s just not. Not because I’m special, but because people are just making it out to be bigger than it really is. I think? That’s why I want people to do Nanowrimo. So they can see that it’s not that hard. Just like anyone can run a 5K, anyone can win Nanowrimo with the conditions in their favour.

Having cheerleaders helps make it fun and actually get it done.

This year I got to know a group of Montrealers who were doing Nanowrimo as well. I had a lot of fun encouraging them via twitter, writing with them in real life (the one time I was able to make it to a write-in), doing word-wars with them where we’d compete to see how much we could write in 10, 15, or 20 minute time slots. The first time I did Nano, I was keeping it a secret from basically everyone because I didn’t want to be embarrassed by my own failure if that was the case. Being open about it helped so much! I would never do it alone again. That’s torture.

StayFocused was hugely helpful for my focus (thanks, Di!)

My friend Diane suggested the browser plug-in StayFocused. You input the sites you want to block and what days/hours you want them blocked and it will simply not let you on them at those times. It was really revealing how in a split second I could open a new tab and be on Facebook, completely subconsciously! Even after I would just close the window, I’d lose my train of thought and be back. It was actually kind of eerie a few times. StayFocused helped me, well, stay focused.

It turns out I have a lot of free time in the evenings/weekends.

This semester with my husband having to leave by 5:45 every day for class, it means that we eat early. It also means I can get a lot done if I actually have things to do and energy to do it with. I can only think of three days where my story was hard to write and it took me 2 hours to write my 1667 words. Otherwise, I pumped out my word count in an hour and then did other things. The main thing is having motivation to do things with people since I find myself pretty tired from hanging out with people all day long at work.

My favourite thing about Nanowrimo

My favourite thing is the freedom in writing to let the story tell itself. If you sit in on the NanoMTL chat room you’d daily hear someone say “I have a block” and then someone else say “KILL A CHARACTER” with much viciousness. Both times I did Nano seriously, I was shocked at how the story ended up telling itself almost better than if I had painstakingly planned out every scene. I just planned broad stroke ideas. It did the rest. I love that. And no, I didn’t kill any characters (though in my first novel, I burned down an old folks home. Everyone that was healthy made it out safe because I couldn’t bear anyone actually dying.).

Finally: “Can I read your novel?”

People have been asking me if they can read my novel. At this point, I’m probably going to say no – mostly because taking the time to read through it to make sure there are no major plot holes etc. will take time. Writing in 1667 word batches makes for a lot of forgetting what was said/done in the previous section! But I might be persuadable as long as people don’t expect anything close to literature.

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