Peace, Love, Home

I am a high school teacher, and I often look out on my students and am overwhelmed by how hard they work and how serious are the struggles with which they are dealing. I often tell them something like, “You guys are awesome. Look at you!” And they smile.

I have always told my husband that I have a strategy for keeping our kids safe when they are teenagers. My strategy is this: I am going to keep my home chock full of comfy couches, yummy food, and a welcoming spirit. My goal is to provide such a warm home that when my kids and their buddies are wondering what to do that night, and are choosing from an entire spectrum of largely questionable choices… one of my kids might mention that their mama is making a pot roast and cookies and OF COURSE ALL YOUR FRIENDS CAN COME OVER!

Naive? Maybe. But I spent most of my high school years NOT getting into trouble because I had a place I would rather be. One of my best friend’s parents created a home that was so loving and inviting that it was just the place my little friend group always wanted to be.

Tonight, my beautiful friend sent me this blog post by Cup of Jo. Man, did it get me thinking. Creating a haven for my children doesn’t start when they hit the teenage years. It was a beautiful reminder that even though little ones don’t choose where to spend their evenings, they are equally in need of a home that is a place of comfort and love. A place they would choose to be.

One of the other things that spoke to me in Jo’s post is the concept of making evenings special. Light candles, slow down, giggle and snuggle and read…. there are little things we can all implement to make our home a refuge and a soft place for our children. And for ourselves!

If any of you have rituals to add to the list, please share!

Finding Peace in the Process

I’ve been struggling, friends.

It took me a while to figure out why because I am doing all sorts of adulting over here, and adulting is stressful with all it’s deadlines, health issues, decisions, spouses, kids, chores, lists, life, death, etc. So I guess when I noticed myself feeling a growing sense of anxiety, I just accepted it. A (lying) voice told me to accept it. This is what happens when you grow up. The responsibility catches up with you and of course you feel awful. Right?

It was a total stranger who made me question this voice.

I know this might seem strange, since I find myself writing some private thoughts to all of you, but I am typically a deeply private person. Maybe too private.

But I am learning. I am watching the wise people around me who go through crisis, and you know what they do? They reach out. They circle the wagons and they gather the village and they lean. I am watching. I am learning.

So when this voice was really messing with my head one day, and my rock/bff/husband was out of town, I reached out to some… strangers, really, on an online group I belong to. This group has nothing to do with grief, but it’s a cool group of women, so I took a breath and dove in. It was much longer than this, but I’ll summarize my post as,

“I’m stressed, I’m sad, I’m not parenting well. I’m grieving. I’m failing. Help.”

The very first line of the very first response I got was this:

“Grief is big, it is real, and it is long.”

You know what that felt like? Permission. I read on…

There were others. There were online hugs, wishes for peace, great advice. But I think the most impactful messages were, like the one above, from women who had also lost loved ones and were still grieving. These women were 18 months, 3 years, 6 years out and still they grieve. I found these to be the most comforting messages, so of course I had to sit down and figure out why.

I thought about how much comfort and peace I am finding as I simplify and declutter my home. And how that experience feels so different from the other big decisions in my life right now.

What’s the difference?

When I declutter a drawer, the drawer is decluttered! It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s tidy, it brings me a sense of peace. Like, right then.
When I grieve, parent, meditate, or ponder some of the big decisions that we are facing right now, there is no tangible result. There is no beautifully decluttered part of my brain or heart or life that I can step back from and admire.

Instead, these things are all just part of a slow and usually invisible process.

I think, looking back, that I have been putting quite a bit of importance on the anniversary of my dad’s death. February 4th came and went. I had gotten through all the seasons and holidays and firsts, and yet…
On February 5th I was not magically restored. I was not done. I had not checked grieving off my to-do list. And maybe…definitely… I was disappointed. In myself.

And that pressure to see instant results, I now realize, was seeping into the rest of my life. I was taking processes like parenting and learning and healing and deciding and trying to turn them into prizes. Finish lines. Boxes to be checked. And then I struggled and wondered why I was so impatient and anxious all of the time.

I forgot.

I am not on this planet to check boxes. I am here to live. To grow. To be kind.

I forgot that it’s on the journey itself that the living happens.

And now I am remembering.

I am remembering that the parenting happens every day, in all the minutes. As my very wise friend told me once, “All of those minutes matter.” I will continue to simplify my home and life because it allows me more of these minutes. And I will not put pressure on myself and allow frustration that it is not done yet. I will live the “doing” just as much as the “done”.

And that goes for the other things too. These decisions that have to be made and healing and growing that needs to be done… it all happens in the journey. The answers will come as I am living my best life, and making time and space for what matters.

I am already seeing little differences. With no finish line to run to, I am more patient with myself, and with my sweet kids. I am yelling at them less. I am giggling with them more. I am taking more time for myself, my husband, and my kids, because… really, that’s what I am trying to get more of anyway.

Living and learning, over here, my friends.

I’ll just close by wishing for you what one of my wonderful stranger-friends wished for me that day.
“Big hugs. I wish I could send you a cup of tea, and a quiet spot to sit and just be. “
Wishing the same for all of you!:)

My Simple Holiday

Happy Holidays Everyone!

I’ve been taking a little break from the blog, from decluttering projects, from doing laundry… you know, all non-essentials. 😉

This is my first Christmas without my dad, and also the first Christmas where both of my kids are old enough to actually enjoy the magic of Santa. It’s been very bittersweet, and there have been many times that I have had a clear vision of myself on a roller coaster. White knuckles, loving it and hating it at the same time, just holding on for dear life. Before the holidays even got rolling, I knew I needed a survival plan. So, I decided to simplify.

I like to think of it like I am going into some sort of minimalist hibernation.

I don’t have a lot of emotional strength in reserves right now, and so I needed to remove all the extras. I needed to declutter my holiday to the absolute bare essentials so that I could live it as fully as possible.

Here is how I am surviving and thriving this holiday:

1. Selective Cancelling
I was once called a “raging introvert,” so Step One in getting through this holiday in one piece was to cancel the parties and gatherings.
I. Just. Can’t. The talking, the socializing… it can be so fun, but it can also be draining, and I don’t have it in me this year.

And that’s ok.

There was one exception. Some dear friends of ours invited us to the mountains. Skiing, hot tub, fireplace, snow… these are a few of my faaaaavorite things! And these friends of ours, along with their family, are so warm and kind and real and are the type of people that just invite you to BE YOU. Shoes off, feet on the couch, swearing-like-a-sailor, laughing and crying YOU. That kind of gathering didn’t drain me, in fact I think it saved me. Thank you so much, T family and TR and WR. I am full of gratitude for you all.

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2. I did my best with presents and let the rest go
I had a whole post planned on what strategies I was implementing for keeping the holiday toy-splosion to a minimum, but then, you know… Hibernation.
I will write about it next year, but for now I will just say that I made a list and I did a decent job of sticking to it. I just plopped down in front of my laptop one night and gave my Amazon Prime a good workout. I didn’t worry about budget or sales because none of the items on the kids’ wishlists were even close to big ticket. It took me one night and it was done. My husband bought himself his presents because he is Superhusband. And we drew names for all the adults in my family (THANK GOD) and just had one person to buy for. I am sure I missed some people,

and that’s ok,

because anyone I would be buying a gift for is someone that loves me and has nothing but grace for me. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure seemed that way.

3. I spent a lot of time alone
Turns out, Holiday Hibernation is a dish best served solo. I have a very wonderful friend who reached out to me when my dad died and gave me the only advice (pretty much the only conversation) I actually remember from that time.

He said, “Grieve unapologetically.”

Accordingly, there have been lots of long hot baths, lots of meditation (in bed, under the covers… SO WHAT!?), lots of tears and alone time, and it has saved me. My sweet daughter even said to me, as we drove to my mom’s for our Christmas celebration, “But Nana doesn’t have an upstairs or a living room. Where will you go if you need to cry and feel better?” She wasn’t sad or pitying me. She was being observant and savvy… at 6 years old she sees that sometimes you just need a little alone time and a little cry.

And that’s ok.

4. I simplified dinner. And everything else.
Beef Wellington became Shepard’s Pie. No homemade whipped cream with Daddy’s French Toast. There may have been some mac and cheese, take-out, and hot dogs in there somewhere. And we all survived!

You guessed it… OK.

5. I stopped drinking alcohol.
I know what you are thinking… NOT OK.
I get it…If there is any time to have a nice big glass of wine, it’s when you are sad and stressed, right? I had several reasons for doing this, but I think more important are the benefits… which probably deserve their own post. Hmmmm.

For now I will just say that I was there for it all. I was present. I felt my way through the holiday, joy and grief and pain and loss and all. I will never have to do the first holiday after losing my dad again. It would have been easy to numb myself a bit, but then I knew next year would be just as hard. I wanted to go through it, get through it, and look forward to next year.

Bonus: I facilitated the easiest declutter of my life
Picture it: Christmas morning. Kids are psyched about all their new stuff, they can’t wait to rip into all those new toys. Boxes EVERYWHERE. I grab three big Amazon boxes and told the kids that we needed to make room for all these new toys, and to please run around and gather some things to donate. They instantly made it like a game, and those 3 boxes were filled in minutes! My husband and I just looked at each other, quietly picked up the boxes, and slinked off to the laundry room. And then high-fived.

Overall, it’s been a beautiful and restorative holiday. I have had lots of time home with my incredible husband. We’ve had more talks, more movies and popcorn, and lots more snuggling with the kids. It’s been wonderful.

So my friends, I hope this holiday is treating you well. I am so grateful that we are all on this path together. I appreciate all the support so much. I am so thankful to have this space with all of you!

Megan

Finding peace in simple routines

Hello, my friends.

Well, I did it.

December 1st is just a few short hours away, and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. Time to put this Thanksgiving holiday in the books. But… it’s tough. It was my first Thanksgiving without my dad.

I have a name for this heavy, achy weight that lays right in the middle of my chest when I am really feeling the loss. The pain. The empty. I call it The Brick.

The Brick is back for a while. But it’s lighter than before.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. We hosted, which is always my favorite. Cooking that bird, setting a simple and lovely table… it is like meditation for me.

But I felt his absence all day. I talked to him in my head, like I do. I had a good cry before anyone arrived and that got me through.
And now, I need a little help getting over this hump.

I came across this article today called 5 Things you should do Every Single Day, Even When life is Stressful, and I think this is where I need to start. I think that when life feels complicated and muddy, I need to get back to a few simple routines to get me through.

My list is not going to be the same as hers. And my list won’t be the same as yours, either. But I think I need a new meditation to start my day off and end it with a simple peace and gratitude.

For now, I think my list will be…

Morning:
1. Wake up, lay in bed and think of one thing I am grateful for before I even get up.
2. Do 15 minutes of yoga and/or meditation, in any combination I feel I need that morning.
3. Make my delicious mocha protein smoothie for breakfast and pack my lunch with healthy foods.

Evening:
1. Get some snuggle/reading/play time with the kids after dinner… even if that means the kitchen stays a mess for a while.
2. Go back to our old tradition of my husband and me setting the timer each night for between 5-10 minutes of speed cleaning (depending on our exhaustion level) after the kids are asleep.
3. Shut down all technology no later than 10:15. Take this extra time before bed to write, read, etc.

So that’s where I am going to start. I’ll adjust as I go, but right now, I’m taking this first step. It’s 10:10…. Time to shut down this computer;)
Goodnight, friends.