Thursday, May 10, 2012

Are you sure that's a Priority?

Recently, I tripped on a toy when I was snapping at my daughter because she did not want to get out of her nice warm bed (Really, who can blame her for not wanting to get of a nice warm bed?). Two thoughts came to mind: One - Who put that toy there? It was obviously my punishment for being such a witch. Two - I needed to reevaluate where I was. I needed to start from square one and get back to the un-crabby mom I know I can be.

A great place to start when you are as tired as I am, is sitting down, seriously. So I squeezed a half hour into my day and sat down. I needed to make a few lists:

List One – What do you do?

Take a good long look at what you do. Where has this life brought you? What is in the normal schedule? Write it down.

Children's Church Leader
Baseball Team Mom
Make dinner, breakfast, and lunch
Work full-time
Clean the house
School volunteer
Church service
Church volunteering
Son's sports
Daughter's Dance
Family events
Church Service
Grocery Shopping
Kids' Homework and Projects
Read the kids stories
Trying to get exercize
I will keep adding.....If you can think of more, email me at this_joyful_life at

List Two – What's Important to Me?
On a separate piece of paper write down what your priorities are. What is important to you? The things that you want to do. The things you want to be a priority in life. Hint: If there are more then 10 items on that list then you may want to number them from most important to least and delete anything after 10.

1. Spending time with Kids
2. Attending church service
3. Work
4. Homework and reading
5. Healthy eating
6. Healthy activities for kids
7. Just relaxing
8. Enjoying nature
9. Exploring


List Three – You Are the Sunshine of My Life
Who is a priority to you? Limit the list to less than 20 people in no particular order.
1. Spike
2. Stitch
3. Rapunzel
4 - 8. Anyone who has had the label of Mother or Father in any of our lives (5 people)
9 - 12. Anyone who has had the label of Brother or Sister in any of our lives (4 people)
13. Shipwrecked
14. Bones
15 - 16. Princess and the pea
17 - 18. Two J's

I think the list is complete even though some of the people on the list I do not get to see often.

List Four – Goals
Write down your goals. Things you want for yourself and for your family, in the short term and long term.

Short Term Goals
1. Children to get along
2. Homework do be done in a timely manner.
3. Reading with kids every night.
4. Family vacation time to reconnect
5. Housework schedule and keep it

Long Term Goals
1. Debt Free
2. Travel
3. Take Photography class
4. Kids learn to play an instrument

List Five – Prized Possessions
Choose what items have the most emotional, physical, and nostalgic value. Limit the list to less than 20 items. A category of items like pictures or jewelry can be listed as one on the list.

Wedding rings/jewelry
Angel Cards
Tea Cups
Cooking stuff

Re-evaluate your lists and your life
After I completed my lists I took a good hard long look at our life and figured out where I could start making changes, what I can get rid of, and who we really want to spend our time with. It was overwhelmingly exciting to have a place to start. The idea that saying No to things would get me closer to my priorities like seeing their grades soar while their spirits rise, teaching the kids about how we are just one in the world of many, enjoying watching their faces while a turtle swims by, kicking back on the porch with some sweet tea and a book, or sitting down for some good ol' fashion family game time. All of these things are prevented because we get caught up in all that we have gotten ourselves into. Sometimes we think we have family obligations but are they really an obligation or can we just tell that family member that we do not want to go because that function is not a priority today? This is possible!

So if you are where I was, jump off your broom and grab a pen, MAKE SOME LISTS and keep them with you as a reminder of what you need to do to make the priorities in your life A PRIORITY. You will be amazed at how you feel! I know I was!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mona Lisa or Rubbish?

I have two children, or, shall I say, two heirs to the throne - lucky me. I was blessed with a boy, then a girl; the perfect order, some think. I tend to think it should have been the other way around because big sisters are known to be really loving and responsible. But anyways, I digress. My oldest is in third grade and my little one is in preschool and they are truly two of the most amazingly creative people I have ever encountered in my life.
They both love art and I too love art. I love real art, like a beautiful sculpture, a meaningful poem, or a Van Gough painting. You catch my drift. I also love my children and their art work, to an extent.
With children who really love art (especially Rapunzel) your house becomes a gallery for elementary school children. Rapunzel, my little one, (that is what she would like to be called) creates art everyday at school and then when she comes home she sits in the living room in front of the window so she can feel the warmth of the sun while she creates more art. That means everyday Rapunzel alone brings home at least 10 pieces of art work. Stitch mostly likes to invent contraptions and create art work at the house. Being that he is in third grade, there is less art work that comes home with him but what does come home is at an increasingly higher quality then years before.
Both of the kids love to share their beauty with the world. They have the idea that the entire universe should be able to view the miracles that come out when their fingers touch the paint, paper mache, or coloring utensil. They firmly believe that their art work deserves recognition and appreciation by all and that there is NO BETTER GIFT then a piece of art from Princess Rapunzel or Prince Stitch. In their eyes it is all a Mona Lisa.
BUT, there are 365 days in the year and if you times that by ten pieces of art a day,that means we are going to have to admire 3650 pieces of art work. My children do not believe that a prince's or princess's art work should be tossed into the informatory or be in any way, shape, or form damaged. The believe that art belongs in a gallery - a gallery that is equally divided between two countries; The Country where Boys reign on high and the Country where Girl's are the stronger of the species.  
How do I accommodate these demands? I must accommodate the requests of my sovereign. If I do not they become disheartened and they tend to cry while screaming the words "You don't love me!" Since we don't want to disappoint them, I had to come up with some ideas on how I can accommodate such high demands. 
Of course I would prefer to only display true works of art in all areas of my house, but we all have ideas of what is true art and I do feel that what my children produce is Art in the simplest and yet warmest form. Who doesn't smile after seeing a piece of art crafted by a small child?
First - I decipher whether or not the art is either rubbish or a Mona Lisa and if it is rubbish, it is briskly granted a silent demise. Rubbish would be the scribbling of circles on a plane white piece of paper or a out of the lines coloring by my eldest who is completely capable of coloring with in the lines.
Second -  I take all the art work that is brought home and enter it into the Art Gallery dungeon - a big Tupperware the size toy box.
Third - I place the art work that the Prince and Princess distinguish as priceless heirlooms for future generations on the gallery which you commoners call the fridge. This is art is considered that of the Mona Lisa, this would be art that I can look at it and clearly say "Wow, you took a lot of time to complete this and you were extremely creative with the colors." or the not as often "Oh My Goodness, you did this? This is brillance!".
Fourth  - I go through the dungeon every two months (twice the change of moons) and pick the most exquisite pieces to be displayed with the utmost respect - hung in the kitchen or living room. I also decide what pieces will make it to actually meet the heirs of my children. Many pieces succomb to a rapid demise, rubbish.
I have found this process quick and effective. The royal children do not seem to notice some of the missing pieces, but they do notice when art is not properly displayed in a visible area. For instance, last night Rapunzel asked "Mommy, how come Stitch has more art work on the wall then I do and why is my art not at your work also?" Because I have such an effective system, I was able to respond quickly, stating "Look right there honey you have just as much as your brother and I will pick out a piece of art and make sure to put it on the wall at work because your art work is better then the Mona Lisa." Rapunzel was pleased and asked "So your Boss can see?" I lovingly responded "Of course! Who wouldn't enjoy looking at how talented you are."
What do you do with your art? Do you decide Mona Lisa or rubbish?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Follow Your Bliss

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are -- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time. - Joseph Campbell

A few weeks ago I joined a gym. Since then I have been going to spin class twice a week and I. Am. Hooked. 

There is no doubt in my mind - spinning is my bliss. This is why I love it:

I get to class a few minutes before it starts and join the group of people waiting to get into the room. The previous class lets out and the janitors enter with their mops and buckets to clean up the pools of sweat that have accumulated under the bikes. One of the great things about spinning - it makes you SWEAT.

We enter the room and start adjusting our bikes - seat, handlebars, etc. A good setup is important. If your bike is not set up properly, you will pay for it the next day. 

The teacher starts the music and a fast song with a heavy beat blares out from the stereo as we begin to peddle. 

"UUUUUUP," he yells. We rise from our seats in unison, bend over our handlebars and peddle to the beat. Left, right, left right; 22 bikers in perfect synchronization. In this moment, the day's stresses fall from my mind. For the next 60 minutes the only thing that matters is the ride.

A girl hurries into the room a few minutes late. She quickly adjusts her bike, grabs the handlebars and hops sideways onto the seat. "What a badass," I think. I know if I tried that move, I'd miss the seat and fall to the ground. 

By this time we have been riding for about 5 minutes. My heart is pumping, I can barely catch my breath, and sweat is oozing out of my pores. 


The music changes to a slower song; still loud, still a heavy beat. 


Next to me a short, Latina girl yells out, "HEAAAAAAAAAAAAVVVVVVVVVYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!" I call her La Sirena - The Siren. She mimics the teacher's instructions in a loud, echoing voice for the entire hour. At first it annoyed me, but now it makes me laugh, and when she misses a class, we all yell out echoed instructions in her place. 

We adjust the tension on our bikes and begin the slow climb. Legs shaking, muscles burning, we struggle for each turn of the peddles. Left, right, left, right; we shift from side to side in perfect, military formation. 

As the song tapers off, a new one starts - faster than the last one, and with a frantic, techno beat. It's time for sprints. 

To be fair, "sprint" may be the wrong word as these are not short burst of momentum, but rather long, unending, torturous stretches of speed. They maybe last 2 to 3 minutes, but at 120 or more rpm, it feels like a lifetime. Sprints are pure torture, but we all do them diligently.

Most teachers would give you a break after 4 rounds of sprints, but not this one. 


We rise shakily from our seats, panting and struggling to keep our momentum.


This position is a teaser. Standing in a crouched position, hovering inches over the seat, your instinct is to relax and sit. No can do, buddy. Fire up those glutes and hold your position! 


Pop-ups are my favorite part of class. We ride in standing position for four beats and then switch to a low standing position for four beats. Back and fourth, four beats up, four beats down; it is an obsessive compulsive's perfect workout. 

The class goes on with variations of these exercises for about 50 minutes. Then comes the final workout.


The song starts as people grab for their water bottles, wipe off their faces, and prepare to dig deep. It's one of those songs that is deceptively slow in the beginning, but after a few seconds, the beat starts to pick up.


We all scream, "YEAH!"



"IN 3..."

The beat gets faster.


The song gets a little bit louder.



The beat takes off and so do we. Spinning our legs as fast as we can, hearts pumping, blood pounding, we give it everything we have and then some. Faster and faster, we reach our top speeds and struggle to hold on to them.


The teacher's yelling gives us all a burst of energy and we pick up the pace, the motion of our legs blurring. 

Finally, mercifully, the song ends and we slow to a human pace once again.

After a brief cool down and some stretching, the teacher tells us to give ourselves a hand and we all clap and cheer. 

It's at this point that I grab my empty water bottle, my sweat-soaked towel, and my keys and slowly drag myself to the car. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's The New Me, Haters!

WARNING: This post may not be as joyful as it could be. OK it is an all together complaining rant where I am about to go on a rampage about judgemental critical people - Enjoy!

I realized a long time ago that even though you can try to teach people how to treat you, who you are, what you are about, and what you want, some people never change their minds about who THEY want you to be.

I want to be a new me. A new me who has a spirit filled with joy, love, and strength. A new me who is organized. I want to be the woman whose household has peace and order. I want to be the person who can sit with a clean mind and read a book. I want to be the mother who helps make memories and holds traditions together for her family. I want to be a woman of wisdom that others can see as a someone who is there to help lift them up when they are down. Those aren't bad things, are they? Then why would someone want to ignore THE FACT that I am slowly making changes and always always trying.

Is it not fast enough for them? Is it because I sometimes take two steps forward and one step back? Is because I am not perfect?

I see myself working towards these goals by slowly but steadily simplifying my life. The three major ways I am working on it are by saying no, decluttering, and financial freedom.

All three of those things take time. With the children that I have who grow like weeds, the decluttering is not that easy. There are obligations that take up my time that I have to fulfill until they are over or until they find someone to replace me, so that cannot be done immediately either. AND, as all we all know, financial freedom is a constant battle. I do admit that I could kick the decluttering up a few notches. But other wise I am doing as much as I can at one time. I have a purpose for all of my actions.

So why are some people so hard on me?

Why don't they see that there is a purpose for this journey?

I am going to grow into the version of myself that God has intended me to be. I am letting go of my past and enabling myself to move forward. I teach others who I am by what I do and how I treat them.

So what up wit it? Why they hatin' on me?

I can only think of one good reason. It's because they are not, they are not trying, not working towards anything better, not forgiving themselves.

They are hatin' because I am fighting a good fight. I have something they don’t have AND they don’t want ME to have it. Haters can't hate on me unless I am doing the right thing. If I were doing something wrong, they wouldn't need to make themselves feel better by making me feel worse. But it is when I am doing the right thing that I get attacked. When I am going the right direction, when I am saying the right things, that is when I get attacked. So handle business, go on and have the time of your life talking about me! It gives me joy knowing that I am doing the right thing.

You are probably wondering what I am going to do about it. The answer is NOTHING and some more nothing and a whole lot of nothing. I am not going to try and fight back or defend myself. I am going to stick to the plan, stay on my journey. I will not fight the haters because if I try to play their game, I will get distracted and I will start thinking about the haters not the plan. So I will let it go. It is not my job, to take on all the haters of the world, that’s God’s job.

In fact I am just going to get even nicer and really get them cooking when I don't respond to their efforts to start a battle with me. Your gonna have to learn to love it one day.

When you have a purpose you can focus without being distracted. A purpose is having a clear sense of what you are supposed to do. Your purpose is not defined by what others think about you.

Here is a little message to all of the haters. Haters can keep hatin' BECAUSE I have a purpose and plan. I will be a NEW me! I am on a journey! You can join me if you want or just sit back and be left in the dust.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What Would You Do?

This morning I read a post about money. The author posed this question to her readers - What would you change about your life if money was no object?

I love hypothetical questions and this one really resonated with me, especially with the $640 million dollar lottery winner being picked tonight!

Immediately I began to make a list in my head of all the things I would do if I didn't have to worry about money:

1. Take a drawing class. I've been searching for a while now to try and find an art class that would fit with my work schedule. So far the only classes I've found are $40 and $60 per class, which seems a little ridiculous to me - but as long as money is no object, maybe I'll sign up for two!

2. Switch to working part-time. I don't know that I would want to quit my job completely, but going from 5 9hr days a week to 2 4hr days sounds really lovely. It's enough working time to make me appreciate the time that I'm not at work, but not so much working time that I start counting down the minutes until the weekend. Plus, in this alternate reality, I would still qualify for healthcare, right?

3. Get a dog. I love, love, love little furry dogs. If I didn't have to leave the little guy home alone all day, I would totally have a dog already - a little Pomeranian named Harry Potter who would sleep on my bed and dance on his hind legs when he was excited, and love riding in the car. Also, I would get a job that allowed me to bring my dog to work...and allow me to telecommute...and take months off for travel...hmm, this job situation might not work out after all...

4. Hire a chef/housekeeper. Deciding what to make for dinner and then having to shop for the food and cook it is not my idea of fun. So I would hire a chef to come make delicious, soy-free, vegan dinners that my meat-eating husband will love. The chef would also be a fabulous housekeeper who sweeps the floors and cleans bathrooms - my two least favorite chores.

5. TRAVEL!!! I just started reading Life of Pi and the author's description of the habits of the three-toed sloths in Brazil sounded really interesting! So I would take a trip (first class of course) over to Brazil for a few months, hang with the sloths, learn some Portuguese, check out the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio (I've been wanting to visit that statue since I saw it in the 1996 remake of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio!), and then move on Belize for a while, then maybe Italy, France, Sweden, Alaska, all the Hawaii islands, all the Caribbean islands...I could go on and on.  

I did a similar exercise in college when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My list was short and sweet:

1. Learn to drive a manual transmission, then buy an old purple VW bug and name it Lola. 

2. Decorate my apt with plants. 

3. Speak Spanish.
According to that list, my ideal job would be plant delivery driver in South America. Actually, that sounds fantastic! I should look into that.
I think it's interesting to note that in college I was making $80 a week tutoring middle schoolers and my list of desires were all relatively cheap. Now that I'm making more money, my desires have become more expensive (I can only imagine what my desires will be after I win the $640 million lotto tonight. Designer dresses dipped in gold and rubies most likely...). It makes me wonder - Does having more money automatically raise the bar on desires?  
When gossip magazines publish stories about celebrities who have spent all of their money and are forced to claim bankruptcy, I always think - HOW? 
How is it possible to spend MILLIONS of dollars so quickly? I'd like to think that once I become a millionaire, I will still continue with my simplified lifestyle. Sure, I could spend a few tens of thousands traveling the world, but that would still leave me with $539.9 million to live on! 

I suppose I would have to hire an accountant to manage all of my riches and do my taxes. Plus an assistant to deal with all of the donation inquires from charities and whoever else contacts rich people for money. And of course a publicist to manage all the press generated from interest in our fabulous simple living blog! 
It makes me exhausted just thinking about it! So of course I would then need to hire a relaxation team consisting of a masseuse, acupuncturist, reiki master, craniosacral therapist, naturopathic doctor, and therapist to follow me around and make sure I remained calm and zen-like at all times. A dog sitter for Harry Potter, a few nannies for my ever expanding brood of adopted and biological children, teachers to home-school the family and teach us local customs and languages. A team of lawyers in case someone tries to sue me for my millions, a business manager to manage all of my charitable enterprises, a secretary to type up my autobiography notes, a publisher, a tour manager, an image consultant...

OK, I've changed my mind. No winning lotto numbers for me. My desire to live a simple life outweighs my desire to be a millionaire.
To quote Notorious B.I.G. - "Mo money, mo problems"

Amen, Biggie!
Now that you've read my list, tell me, readers - what would YOU do if money were no object? Email us: this_joyful_life at yahoo dot com 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Losing Control

Have you heard this phrase? "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

So true. Things never work out exactly as planned. And the more detailed the plan is - the more things won't go that way.  

(By the way, did you know that that quote was taken from a song that John Lennon wrote for his son, Sean called "Beautiful Boy"? I had no idea until I Googled it.) 

For an OCD planner like me, this truth really bugs me. How can I plan and therefore control my life if there are unseen forces working against me!?!

Take my wedding for example. I created a detailed, 15 page packet for each person in the wedding party containing checklists, floor maps, photos of how the decorations and tables should look (Drawn in excel, by me, including multiple strands of twinkly lights. I drew every single light bulb!), contact lists, even a wedding party task schedule broken down in half hour increments. I planned every last minute of that wedding, and did it turn out perfectly? Of course not.

I remember my coworker telling me a few days before my big day, not to worry because something always goes wrong at weddings. This did wonders for my stress level, let me tell you. Instead of relaxing and enjoying getting ready on the morning of the wedding, I was paralyzed with fear that something was going to happen to ruin my day. 

In reality, the list of things that went wrong were minor and not worth the added stress: The company hired to deliver and set up the chairs at the ceremony was late, the limo taking me and my bridal party to the ceremony had a broken trunk that wouldn't shut, the DJ set up his turntables in the dining area instead of on the dance floor, one of the keg pumps broke, and a few guests were no-shows. So no major disasters occurred, but I can still remember my barely controlled rage when Lily had to inform me that the DJ had set up in the wrong place and it was too late to switch it around so they were going to move some speakers outside instead. Obviously the DJ had not bothered to read his wedding packet. I managed to let it go though, and we all had a great time. (Though I can't imagine how much BETTER a time everyone would have had if the DJ had followed my instructions...but I'm trying not to dwell on it too much...I'll be married two years in October...I should be over it by my golden anniversary)

It has recently become apparent to me that no matter how much effort I've put into it, I just don't have the power to control the universe as it relates to my life. I'm still trying, but I'm definitely noticing more and more the futility in my attempts. 

So where does this leave me? A little shell-shocked, slightly pissed off, but more importantly - hopeful. 

I'm hopeful because if I don't have the power to control every detail of my life, if I don't have the power to predict or control the future, and if I don't have the power to change the past - then I can let it all go! 

Let those unforeseen forces have at it! I'm taking a well-deserved vacation! Let those chips fall wherever they damned well may...

Serious though, how do I let go? It sounds like a great idea in theory, but in practice? How do I not plan things?

My friend told me recently about a yoga class she had taken. At the end of the class the teacher had the students all lie on the floor in shavasina (dead man's pose). She instructed them to let go of their stresses and the thoughts running through their minds, and just concentrate on being in the moment.

I think I'll start with this moment right now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Recap: Frugal February

Well, February has come and gone. All in all, the no spend challenge went pretty well. I did give in half way through the month and buy a scale, but since I was barely able to zip up my pants anymore, it was either buy a scale to motivate myself to get in shape, or buy a new wardrobe. I chose the least expensive option.

During the no-spend month, I discovered a bunch of things that I wanted to buy. I am always looking for the quickest, easiest solution to my problems, which sometimes leads to impulse decisions that don't always pan out so well. Let's take a look:

1. I didn't get a good night's sleep one night.
Impulse Decision: Buy a king sized mattress ($2000).
Actual Decision: Get over it ($0). 

2. I got invited to a cowboy themed wedding.
Impulse Decision: Buy new boots, new jeans, cowboy-type shirt ($250-400).
Actual Decision: I was going to borrow a pair of Lily's boots and one of my husband's flannel shirts. Unfortunately my feet were too big for the boots, and hubby's shirt was too big for me. So I ended up buying boots. And I'll probably buy some jeans...and a shirt...but I actually found a cute pair of boots that I wanted in February for $80 and held off buying them until March. Unfortunately they were no longer available, but THEN I found an even cuter pair for $59.95! So I saved $20.05! ($229.95-379.95)

3. My pants stopped fitting.
Impulse Decision: Buy new pants ($200).
Actual Decision: Buy a scale, count my calories, go running ($10.95)

Total savings: $2031

I even managed to declutter 4 books and a nail file during the challenge.

So what will this month's challenge be?

Fitting back into my pants! Wish me luck :D

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Finding the Peace in Letting Go

The greatest step towards a life of simplicity is to learn to let go.” ― Steve Maraboli

When simplifing your life, you probably hear a lot about letting go. Most times you will assume it is about letting go of things - or at least that is what you may want to hear. In reality the best way to simplify your life is to look deeper than the physical things; start looking inward. Start letting go of what you never really had control over and start holding on to the peace that lives inside of you.
As emotional beings, we naturally hold on to people, fears, anxieties, resentments, and unresolved emotions from past and present situations. This sounds unhealthy right? So wouldn't it be logical to want to move on and move forward? That is not the case for many people. I often hear people say "I can't let go of this because this is what makes me, me" or "But this is who I am". That is not the case, no no honey, not true at all. These people are choosing to not let go because they are subconsiously holding on to the fear of what can become of them. IF they change, how can they start over? They may not want to let go because that would be giving up or maybe even losing control. I have even heard someone say that "they have moved on" or "they have forgiven the past" (including themselves) but yet they are still in an angry state of being looking for the bad in others, being critical, self righteous, living with a defensive attitude, continuing to justify choices, or finding ways to get some sort of vengance that they may call closure.

Is it worth it? What do you gain? There is nothing to gain from the strife of unruly emotions and unaccounted for anger. Those unresolved emotions lead to a complicated life, relationships, and a barrier that will never let you move towards finding peace within and ultimately a clear mind and a free heart. We have only one attempt to make this life the best it can be and we should change our negative habits, feelings, and reactions so that we do not pass them on. We are responsible for the generations that come after us, for our children and our children's children. What we pass on to them will take root and bloom in our family tree.

You only have now to change. So is it worth it? YES.

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. -
Oprah Winfrey

Having a clear mind and a free heart can lead you to the idea that anything is possible if you realize that you are not in control and that is OK.

I will accept what I am given and I will be grateful and find joy in it. Does that sound like a simplier way of living? Of course because with a clear mind and heart you will start to be able to truly live and enjoy what you have in the world, and you will be able to get rid of what is not bringing you joy or aiding in your simple life. Once you start glowing from a happy life it will spread like wildfire. You will soon see how you'll start working like you don't need the money, you'll have better relationships, better conversations, a cleaner house, you will be able to get rid of more clutter because you won't have the guilty feelings attached to it. The list really can go on and on and on.

The first step towards letting go is to realize that the past or these negative habits and emotions no longer hold you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let it go. To those of you who struggle with the idea of truly letting go or truly finding forgiveness; don’t cling to your self-righteous suffering, let it go. Let yourself be forgiven because the truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that that situation is over, you cannot move forward. That is pride that is holding you back, the stubbornness to not accept change, not accept happiness.

How do you release the pride? Don't give into those urges to feed it. If a woman you work with is constantly rubbing it in that she got the promotion and you didn't comes by your desk and your pride wants to be just as haughty, smile and tell her how nice she looks today and ask her about her weekend. Her guard and yours will slowly be let down. Another situation may be that you are normally to afraid to go to a certain place because of uncomfortable feelings or anxieties; go there by yourself or with someone you trust and verbally say why you don't like it here and what you are afraid of and say out loud, "I am letting this go because it WILL NOT control me and I WILL live peacefully even though this happened." You may need to do this a few times. Other ways to start releasing pride are to put yourself in a humbling position, ask for forgiveness and actually talk about the situation but don't expect someone to ask for your forgiveness, talk about what happened and don't make up or look for excuses, and above all find the good and love that came out of it all. Because what is done is done and you cannot change it but you can let go.

Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed. - Oprah Winfrey

This is not going to be easy. No where is it written that life is ever easy, but once you get through the struggle, everything else will seem easy. Because the hard part is letting go and moving foward with expectation and with acceptance.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Frugal February Update

I faced my first shopping temptation on the first day of February. I had an appointment to get my eyebrows waxed at a makeup counter at the mall (Totally legal - no items were purchased. If anything, I was decluttering eyebrow hairs).

My appointments are scheduled for an hour after I get off work, so I usually have about 30-45 minutes to browse while I wait...for my brows (heheh).

Knowing that I couldn't buy anything this time, I decided to bring a book with me to read in the car instead of walking around the mall.

It was kind of scary! I parked at the top of the parking structure and every time a car drove by, my whole car shook! And then my brakes would creak. It was a long wait.

When it was finally time for my appointment, I walked inside the entrance doors and passed a huge sign in a store window that said:

I Like Money Where I Can See It.
Hanging In My Closet.

How friggin weird is that slogan? 

I like my money in the bank. Where it belongs. And if I need to pay bills, I can use it. 

The sign definitely helped squash my urge to shop though, and I escaped the mall without a thing. 

Frugal February Items Wanted: 0
Total Money Saved: $0.00

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Frugal February

Every once in a while, Lilly and I like to participate in mini challenges.

We've done the 21 Day No Complaining challenge where you start at day 1 with a string or rubber band tied around your wrist and try to go for 21 days without complaining. If you complain, you have to transfer the string to your other wrist and start over at day 1. It took us a long time to complete that challenge.

Other challenges we've done have been shorter, like our No Spend Week challenges. We stock up on groceries and gas for our cars, and don't buy a single thing all week. Those challenges are fun, but they definitely involve meal planning - not my strong suit.

The most recent challenge that we did was a Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone Week challenge. Each day had a new comfort zone challenge - such as wear something you wouldn't normally wear. I bought a frilly blouse, put on heels, makeup, and did my hair with one of those pompadours on my head. It got great reactions from my co-workers, but I was highly embarrassed with the attention and was happy to get back to my plain work clothes and comfy shoes the next day.

This February we are going to be doing a month long challenge that we've named Frugal February. Basically, we are challenging ourselves not to buy any non-consumables for the entire month. That means only food and hygiene products, though we both agreed that we probably have enough hygiene products in our stockpiles that we won't need to buy any. Purchasing experiences like going out to dinner or going to the zoo is allowed, just as long as we don't buy any souvenirs to take home with us.

The goals of this challenge are to make us aware of our spending urges, help us save some money, and hopefully in the long run, help us stop buying so much stuff to bring home and add to our clutter. During the month we will be posting about the spending urges that come up and keeping a tally of the amount of money we're saving ourselves by not purchasing those items.

Wish us luck and feel free to join our challenge!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Art of Simple Cooking

I love to cook (unlike some people I know, you know who you are). At an early age I was taught to cook and knew the importance of that knowledge. Even at 7 or 8 I was able to use the stove and oven. It feels natural to me to cook and bake. I know for many people they are afraid to cook or feel really uncomfortable in the kitchen because they have never had to cook. I am here to encourage those people to take that next step towards being a Big Girl who loves the kitchen and enjoys the art of cooking.

This why I encourage all of you fearful people to start participating in the longest form of art known to mankind. (Not sure if that is a fact but you would think so since we have had to cook to eat ever since we were created). IT MAKES LIFE SIMPLER! It really truly does. I know you may not think so BECAUSE Dinner happens....every night, whether we like it or not. With dinner come dishes, planning, making sure everyone will eat it, and making sure they are some what nutritious, especially if you are a Mother. But it really does life a little easier because 1. You do not need to go out to and pick something up, 2. Your trash will not be overloaded with to-go packages, 3. You can throw something together in less time then picking something up, 4. It is healthier for you, and 5. It costs less.

Not only does it make life easier but once you get the hang of it you will seriously enjoy it. Trust me...I know what I am talking about. I do it all the time and I really enjoy it. I enjoy watching others taste my food. I enjoy watching my children clean their plate. I enjoy the smell in the house from all the yummy food cooking. When I have time I like to make new dishes that require a little more effort but on a regular basis it is just dinner or just lunch, nothing extravagant, but it is still something I created to nourish the bodies and souls of my family.

OK, OK, Even for me, I can understand sometimes you may feel like it can be a chore. Like everyone else I do not always have the time to make the dinner that I would LIKE to have but as a Mother who tries to make every effort to simplify things I had to come up with some guidelines for simple meals.

Simple Meals mean:

Fewer ingredients - so we don't need to go to the store

Fewer dishes - being used to make it and eat it = less to clean

Less time - Less then 30 minutes to prepare and cook = more time with family

Simple dinners usually please everyone. Let's face it your 5 year old is not going to mention how she can really taste the mint you used in that sauce. In fact they are not even going to try some of it because "What did you put in there?! Yuck!". So the fewer ingredients, the higher you can bet on whether or not it will get eaten.

As you can tell I am trying to a home cooking revolution so if you have some simple recipes or meal plans share with us, we would love to try them out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Kid Conundrum

I was a very imaginative little kid. Growing up with only a half-sister who lived far away was lonely at times so, instead of imaginary friends, I had imaginary siblings; I became the 6th Cosby kid.

My imaginary siblings and I all got along very well and played games and laughed with each other for hours at a time. It was so much fun that I decided I would make sure to have lots of kids someday so that they would always have real siblings to play with.

When I was in 6th grade, I remember telling my mom that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: “Mom, when I grow up I want to have 12 kids and live on welfare and be a jolly, fat housewife who bakes cakes all day!”

I’m not sure where I got the idea, seeing as how my real mom was a teacher and my pretend mom, Claire Huxtable, was a lawyer, but I thought it was a fabulous plan for adulthood.

My mother, on the other hand, was appalled.

Lucky for her, I gave up that dream pretty quickly.

As I got older and began to revise my plans for the future, the number of kids that I wanted dropped to 6, and then 4, and then 3. When planning out my life, I thought that 24 sounded like the perfect age to become a mom. In reality, at 24 I was living in a termite-infested apartment, eating giant bowls of chocolate chip trail mix for dinner every night, and spraying Formula 409 on my moldy dishes rather than washing them. I was definitely not ready for children.

Now that I’m 29 and thinking seriously about starting a family, I've begun to wonder how my minimalist, decluttered lifestyle will fit with children - more specifically, their toys.

After we moved into our current apartment, my sister-in-law came over and pointed out a nice, empty spot in my living room where I could put her hand-me-down play kitchen once I had my own kids. I was panicked! Would I have to keep a kitchen in the living room?!? Aren't toys stored in the bedroom? Will my kids have so many toys that they spill out of their room and into other rooms in the house? Surely there is a law against kids owning too many toys?

I recently read a book called Simplicity Parenting where the author referred to a frightening statistic: The average American child receives 70 new toys per year! Multiply that by the 3 children I was hoping for, and that number goes up to 210! If we assume that children receive toys as gifts up until 6th grade, or age 11, that equals 2,310 toys that I will have to assemble, find batteries for, trip over, sit on, glue back together, wash off, and put away - multiple times a day!

Does that number seem obscenely high to anyone else?

I understand that people love to give presents to their kids. I spoil my nieces rotten at birthdays and Christmas! It is completely hypocritical of me, but I do it because I want to show them how much I love them. But is it fair to teach kids to measure how much someone cares by the amount of presents they give them? Shouldn’t we instead show them love with hugs and kisses, and attention?

What values are we teaching our kids by giving them so much stuff? I can't think of anything positive.

On the other hand, there are some great values that we can teach kids by not giving them so much:

Appreciate and take care of what you have. If kids have fewer toys, they are more likely to spend a longer time playing with them, and will take better care of them knowing that there aren't 15 more toys just like it in the toy box that they can play with if one gets broken.

Using your imagination can be just as fun. Kids love to explore and dig in the dirt when given a chance! My friends and I grew up playing outside. We built forts, played restaurant, spies, hide and seek, tag, trapped salamanders and rolly pollies for pets...There was no limit to the games we could come up with.

How to share. With less toys, kids are more willing to share them with others. Apparently when there is not enough to go around, humans are more willing to share. Whereas when there is an overabundance of something, we all become greedy little hoarders.

Not everything in life is just handed to us; Sometimes you have to work for what you want. I remember wanting a Magic Nursery doll when I was little. My mom made me work hard for that doll! I scrubbed bathrooms, cleaned the kitchen, and dusted all weekend, but finally I earned enough to buy it and all the anticipation and hard work made the doll that much more special.

Whether I end up having 1 kid or 12, I am definitely going to try to do things differently. Of course I’m not saying that my kids won't be allowed to have toys - but you can bet they'll be getting far less than 70 per year.

Besides, don't most kids end up ditching their toys for a stick and an empty cardboard box anyway?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Closet Cleanup

Inspired by Lilly's decluttering projects, I decided to do a bit of decluttering of my own.

My first project was the hall closet. There wasn't much to get rid of, but I was able to straighten it up a little bit:



Like I said, there wasn't much to get rid of, but I like how it looked after and that's all that mattered. :) It looks even emptier now because I was able to use two of those mailer envelopes recently, which totally made me happy. Using things up is just as much fun as decluttering things!

My next project was my clothes closet.

I would love to be one of those people who always has a cute outfit on. Unfortunately, laziness and comfort always win and I end up wearing outfits like what I currently have on: My husband's blue and black plaid pajama bottoms which are about 3 times too big for me, red slippers, a gray t-shirt and a fuzzy teal bathrobe complete with hood. And I would totally go to the store in this outfit, if I thought my husband wouldn't disown me!

Back to my closet. In an ideal world, I would be one of those minimalists who only owns 2 pairs of pants, 5 shirts, and a sweater. Instead, after pulling out all of my clothes from the closet and the dresser, this is what my pile looked like:

After going through the pile and removing clothes that hadn't been worn in the past five years, shirts that had shrunk in length once washed, itchy fabrics, and reducing my skinny clothes pile because by the time I diet my way back to that size at least half of the clothes will be out of fashion anyway, this is what I was left with:

 Still way more clothing than I would like to own, but it's a good start.

This is what I got rid of:

5 t-shirts, 8 tank tops, 14 hanging tops from my closet, 5 pairs of shorts, 5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of pajama pants, 3 pairs of work pants, and a purse.