Seven Morning Habits Which Are Highly Effective for This Person

Congratulations brave warrior. Your survived the Monday after Thanksgiving and if it was anything like mine that is to be commended.

The entire holiday weekend had several highlights but it was also looooooaaaaded with triggers as holidays often are for a lot of us. By Sunday night I was headed for trouble and by Monday, mid-morning I was….what they say…”a heated mess? A mess where heat is applied to it so that what once was a little messy is now very messy?” (name that line).  Look the reality is that shit happens to all of us, usually at inconvenient times. I think of overcoming PTSD as a project which takes up a lot of time and energy. But  even when you are involved with a project involving lots of past shit, shit can and does go down real time too.  It’s the nature of living that we can’t schedule our shit to suit us best. This is because most of the shitty life events are outside of our control.

And that can make us feel (and also be) completely out of control too. An out of control person in a crisis situation?  Well, look nobody wants to be that that person or be around that person or even know that person. You want a freaking pilot who is IN CONTROL when the plane starts having mechanical difficulties y’know? Not some freaking idiot who is shrieking about how modern planes are supposed to be able to fly themselves. It’s just not an optimal thing.  I try hard not to be that person.

Yet there was no other way to describe me by Monday aternoon. I was Out Of Control and it was Not Optimal. And then as I scrubbed the walls and baseboards with soapy water, (the only productive thing I could focus on for any length of time whilst trying not to hyperventilate), it occcurred to me that because of the holiday weekend, I had completely slacked off on the careful daily habits I have cultivated over the course of my PTSD-ending Project.  And while I couldn’t control the triggers and I couldn’t control the shitty realities that had cropped up, I really can control whether or not I do my “Daily Disciplines” as I like to call them. And guess what else? They totally help me to become a competent pilot in the shitstorms of life.

I can also tell you that when my mornings are in control,  I feel pretty confident in my ability to keep my shit more or less together for the forseeable, I feel pretty solid about the day ahead, come what may. Before I had these disciplines in place I felt really scared all the time. I couldn’t count on getting through the day if it got too hard. That’s not a cool way to live..and happily it’s not how I live anymore. So long as I keep up with my disciplines. That’s pretty powerful stuff. That’s worth buckling down for a little bit isn’t it?  For me it is. For me it SO IS.  So here I am to share with you what gets me and keeps me on the right track. Maybe all of these work for you too, maybe only one of them looks like something you’d like to try, or adapt to try. Disclaimer: daily disciplines are for everyone, if you have a mental health crisis in addition to this sort of thing you need to be working with care providers (which I do).

Here’s what I’m going to ask you not to do. Not because it annoys me but because I want you to reframe the way you think about your life and its problems. If you are inclined to write to me and tell me how you guess you are just stuck with a sucktastic life because you can’t do these things for xyz million different reasons then remember:  I’m not asking you to do these specific things.  I’m asking you to figure what disciplines you could employ to help you take control of your responses to what life hurls your way. So instead of putting energy into explaining why these things wouldn’t work for you,  go ahead and put it into figuring out what will work for you! Deal? Deal! I’m bossy cos I love you. Without further ado:

Kirsty’s Daily Disciplines.

1. Wake up early.
What?? No! I hate myself for typing those words. I am not an early bird. I don’t understand people who love the early morning, I go to bed too late…blahblahblahblah. I need an alarm to get me up every single day. And it’s dark and it’s cold and I’m sleep deprived because I do like to stay up too late. And if I had to get out of bed early without some sort of accountability it’s almost certain that I wouldn’t. Because I am nothing against the power of a warm comforter and a soft pillow.  Which is why I have organized my life to have people expecting me and waiting for me and even paying me to get up early.  The sad truth is that successful people are almost always early risers. Dammit. Anyway, sunrises are really pretty and when my beautiful friend Stacey died in her 30’s amongst
the words of advice she left were, “get up to see more sunrises”. I like to think of her when I do.

2. Drink a big bottle of water first thing.  Life hack. When you are brushing your teeth every night, fill up a bottle of water, put it on your night stand. Upon awakening…drank. People. Dehydration. Is. So. Bad. It’s bad for your body, it’s bad for your brain, it’s bad for your mood, it’s bad for your looks, your weight control, it’s bad for your breath it’s bad. If in doubt, drink more water. FYI: Coffee is not water, milk is not water, soda is not water, juice is not water. Water is water. Herbal tea without caffeine is a closer substitute than the above things.  Water is not just good it’s really critical for healthy functioning and so many things are going to start working better for you if you just buckle down and drink the right amount of water. Just Do It. Drinking room temp or warm water first thing in the morning is really good for your digestive system.  If I don’t drink about 20 oz first thing, there’s a good chance I’m going to keep on the path of dehydration all day which will lead to bad eating choices,  headaches, digestive issues and a super terrible mood. And that’s just short term. If I do drink it first thing I just function better and I keep hydrated as the day goes on. Good things beget more good things. If you hate water  trick yourself into liking or at least in drinking it: imagine you are in the desert and the water is the oasis you have been dreaming of all this time and glug glug glug… or use a straw or buy a bottle you love (this battered Swell bottle is my constant companion, keeps things hot or cold for ages and it is really really sturdy. (I know because once I used it as a javelin off of my top balcony and it landed on my stone path and it’s still being awesome). Anyway WATER. Drink more. Drink early and often. Life will get better for you. I promise.

3. Do yoga.  Yoga is a brilliant way to wake your mind and body up because it involves stretching, breath awareness and focus on the present. I can’t possibly go into how many ways yoga is beneficial, you have the internet, look it up!  Literally everyone can do a little bit of  SOME KIND OF yoga every day. There are so many different poses and adaptations within those poses. I like the little ritual of playing  “Here Comes The Sun” to kick off my practice every day. I can’t help but smile and feel comforted when I hear it. Even if you can only do one song’s worth of yoga, you did it. It’s so much better than nothing at all.  I chose this of my many yoga pics to share because I’m throwing down in jeans, with my jacket and my sunglasses off to the side on the way out of the door. Yoga doesn’t require lulelemon pants and a fancy studio or a “yoga body”. Just strike some poses where and whenever you can. They add up. A few sun salutations are an excellent way to get some truly beneficial stretches in and start your day off perfectly.

4. Meditate. Over the summer I practiced the very basics of basic zen meditation but with the school year being so much more busy and the weather not being as conducive and inviting to long practices outside in lotus position I turned to apps for help and variety. Head Space and Simple Habits both have very generous free trials to get you on your way (Simple Habits is currently 50% off for the yearly subscription), and they show how easy and accessible meditation really is. It takes no skill whatsoever. Exciting news! YES YOU CAN MEDITATE. Trust me, if I can do it, literally anyone can.  It’s not about emptying your mind of thought and being some kind of levitating genius. Allow me to reiterate: Even I can do this. And I have the attention span of a gnat on crack ok? Meditation is not what you think it is, it really is a very simple process and what’s more all the people you think are so amazing and calm and chill and accomplished probably do some form of meditation or another…try it’s powerful stuff, yo. I’m by no means a pro or an example to live by but when I found myself in profound distress on Monday I discovered my brain automatically switching over to some of the skills I have recently learned through meditation so…yes. It works.

5.Write in a journal. I write 3 pages in an A4 Moleskine journal with a lovely flowy pen every morning. Doesn’t that sound so artistic and delicious?  Ah, I love Beautiful rituals! Someone taught me this “morning pages” concept about a year ago. And it’s such a cherished, satisfying ceremony for me. But  then, I like to write, and I write quickly. If you don’t you could maybe try to start with 5 things you are grateful for. Or write 2 intentions or top priorities for your day.  Since I’ve got 3 pages to fill, I manage to cover thoughts that are floating around, gratitude and intentions most days. But really, just the act of taking a pen and ink and putting your thoughts to page is the least for me

6. Make my bed.  I choose to ignore that study about how it’s better not to make your bed,  but if you don’t, there is nothing to stop you from smoothing your sheets, fluffing your pillow and pulling your covers back neatly so that you have an inviting place to return to at the end of the day. Creating order in the sacred space of  our room (I do consider our bedroom a sacred little sanctuary and I try to keep it beautiful and tidy because of that) is a very self nurturing and controlled way to start your day before you walk out into the chaos of the world. It’s such a small but deliberate act of discipline which will signals to me that I am in charge of my day and that I’m capable of creating order out of chaos. It’s a little thing that can make a really big

7. Have a nutritious easy to prepare/eat breakfast.  I give so much credit to my husband for preparing overnight oats for me since this spring or early summer. He’s perfected the recipe for me over time and it includes so many amazingly

healthy things while still being perfectly palatable and delicious. If I skip my oats and coffeeeeeeee, things fall apart predictably around 3pm every day.  As I mentioned above, I am incredibly easily distracted, so having something pre-prepared, appetising, healthy and comforting to eat which will keep my blood sugar stable for many hours is a total game changer for me and probably for the rest of my family who don’t have to deal with my irritability at 4pm when I realise I haven’t eaten all day and suddenly am foraging for all the carbs, writing rants on facebook IN ALL CAPS and being super bitchy to all the people.

Well that’s it for now. I actually have like 10 things but I’m out of time and the 7 seemed like a cool way to leverage off someone else’s success so you get 7 😉 Tell me what your habits for being the competent pilot of your life are! I wanna knoooooowwww! Maybe I wanna copy them! Anything here you like that you think you might incorporate? Tell me that too. Tellllll meeeeeee!!!

You guys remember when I used to do Works for Me Wednesday?? Well it’s Wednesday..these work for me! Ha! Nostalgia!


The Person Who Inspires Me Most

You guys, I’m kinda nailing this November blogging thing. I’m just saying.


You know those people who don’t get impressed by anything? Well that’s not me. Life can be hard and people are amazing. There are so many people who leave me breathless with their resilience, brilliance, bravery, dedication, creativity, strength, willpower, patience, capacity to love.  Over time, particularly in the last couple of years my inner circle has become extremely small and tight and there is not a single person inside of it who doesn’t completely blow me away in some regard on a daily basis.  I feel like that’s a good rule of thumb for who you want in your inner circle. You want your inner circle to make you smile from the inside out, to light up your soul in some way. You want your chosen people to be the type of people who make you drift away for a moment when you are interacting with them because you are marveling over how incredibly lucky you are to have them in your life.

Sometimes I will mention to a friend how I have replayed something they have said or done in my mind when the going gets tough and I need inspiration.  Usually they have completely forgotten the incident they had a part in which was so inspiring to me (that’s good to remember, you never know who you are inspiring and how).

I am inspired by people I know and love also by people I don’t know. Today, I watched the NYC marathon and got teary eyed along with everyone else as the female winner pumped her fist in triumph when she realised she had won. The first American woman in 40 years to do so.

Ripped from the pages of my facebook feed:
Her “FUCK YES ✊🏻!!!!” as she sprinted at the line…gave me a total lump in my throat. So I pretty much always root for the African but it was so apparent that she was having that one in a million perfect dream come true when every oz of everything you have sacrificed and suffered comes through for you at just the right moment experience and that kind of magic…it’s just an absolute privilege to watch. 

Clearly, I can never relate to the thrill of being an elite major marathon winner, but I can most certainly relate to what it feels like when all the work pays off and you are also blessed with a good running day. Running is so unpredictable and in the course of 26.2 miles alongside thousands of other people, anything can happen to derail your dreams but today, it all fell into place for Shalane Flanagan and that was magical and so inspiring. Just the shot in the arm I needed as I have been struggling with a fearful and pessimistic mindset in my own marathon training. I want to feel some of that joy again. It’s absolutely intoxicating. She was every little girl who had a dream’s hero today.

But if you were to ask me which person I think of the most often when I am really at rock bottom, when the tank is empty, when I can’t get out of bed, when I feel like the worst, most useless or ridiculous human being in the world and I really need to get over that and get on with it. The person who comes to mind is…..


Why? Because there is nobody I know more intimately.  There is no one whose struggles I am more closely acquainted with.  There is no struggle I can relate to better than my own. I know exactly what I have overcome, and how often I have triumphed in tiny and big ways. Sometimes it’s as small as getting out of bed, and forcing myself to do some household chores before I collapse back into bed to sleep off the grips of a PTSD episode, sometimes it is taking my tired self out into the freezing cold to complete a difficult run, other times it’ humbling myself on the mat as I get tossed around like a rag doll at jiu jitsu or being content to look completely inept at boxing, sometimes it’s as big as giving birth or completing a 1/2 marathon or naming and facing my biggest demons, standing up to my abusers, walking away from things which are breaking me.  But every time something hard comes along, and I fear I will not be able to handle it, the most powerful and effective thing I know to do is remembering all the times I did.

Reminding myself that I have survived 100% of my worst most difficult days, and I will survive this too.  Allowing myself permission to start over, to ask for forgiveness from others, to accept forgiveness from myself.  Reminding myself that this too shall pass, like all the times it did before.  Conjuring up memories of all the times I thought I was done for, when in fact I wasn’t.

Let me be very clear. I don’t believe I’m any better than anyone else. But I know that my victories are hard won and I know they are legit.

Which is why, as I get older and wiser, the days when I’m feeling ok or maybe even better than ok, I try to make hay while the sun shines. I try to do as much as I can. I try to stretch myself, move out of my comfort zone, face a fear, do something new, express my love and appreciation fearlessly. I try to deposit as much as I can into  the Bank of Mama Said There Would Be Days Like This.

So that when those rainy impossible days do come, I can make those withdrawals from my archives of badassery, and I can remind myself of how awesome I am and how brave and tough and strong and fierce I can be when I need to be.

Here’s my advice. Surround yourself with your heroes, always be looking for new ones, but most importantly, be your own.

On outwitting the Depression Monster and the winner(s) of the Help Kirsty Find a Cause Challenge.

(early morning runs mean you get to see the sunrise. see point #2 below)
Friends! I’ve been back from South Africa for 3 weeks now although it seems significantly longer. Like SIGNIFICANTLY.  I’ve been battling the depression monster HARD since I’ve been back. To be expected. A lot of it is re-entry, chemical, hormonal, a lot of it is situational too. Unresolved issues. Lots of sadness.
But I’m battling and will not be defeated.  The first couple of weeks were spent sleeping a lot. An unnatural affection between me and my bed. Gosh! That thing is comfy! When I wasn’t in it, I was spending a lot of time fantasizing about it. Not the healthiest.
To  be honest I’ve had quite a few days when it seemed most prudent to just lie really still in my bed and wait for my meaningless ridiculous life to end (hopefully in a non-painful and non-dramatic way),  there have been thoughts of how nice it would be to fade from existence without anyone actually noticing or being adversely affected. You know..the usual revolting narrative of Depression.  And then of course the lovely guilt that comes from being so “ungrateful” for the nice, comfortable, privileged, easy blessed life that I have undeservedly been living.  *I’m throwing this part in, not for attention or to be alarmist but as always, to let those who struggle with this stuff know that it’s not just you. It happens. Even to people who are seemingly going about their lives in a fully functional way. Who laugh and smile and show up.  It’s not just you and it’s not You at all.  It’s an illness and it needs attention when you think that way. Talk to someone when you think the thoughts might be unnaturally dark. Because chances are they are.
Some of the stuff I’ve been trying to do to to keep from spiraling:
1.Making a concerted effort not to isolate.  This is always my first instinct and as an introvert I like and need my time alone, so it’s a really fine line between healthy and unhealthy. To this end, I have been accepting invitations to get out and that’s been a saving grace. Truly. I am so grateful to have good friends who have made the effort to get me out of my cocoon. They have been more therapeutic than they can possibly know.  
2.Exercising as much as possible. I am not feeling particularly athletic because I am carrying extra poundage but I’m in decent enough shape since I exercised regularly in South Africa. So I ran a 5k race within a week of being home and have plans for running at least one race a month which keeps me diligent about getting out there and shuffling. Now listen, I know. This exercise part is So so hard when you are in a torrid love affair with your bed due to depression or otherwise,  but having an appointment with a partner is a huge, massive help.  I know that without one I’d be sunk. Do whatever it takes to motivate, sign up for race, make a star chart for yourself, give yourself reward, make it fun . Whatever it takes to get in some sort of physical activity regularly. 
3.I’m easing back into oils and healthy eating.  I basically abandoned anything healthy (apart from exercise) when I got home, I continued to oil up my kids but stopped using them myself and took to my bed with as much chocolate as I could find. Folks, I do not recommend. So oiling it is, trying to drink a LOT of water, make good food choices. I grew a ton of wheatgrass for Easter and I’ve been enjoying my wheatgrass shots. I swear those things give you a TON of energy. Truly. Get past the colour (and my kids have issues with the smell?). That’s good stuff. I wouldn’t lie to you. I like the idea of thinking about the energy of the stuff you eat before you put it in your mouth. To me wheatgrass is sunshine-pure energy whereas chocolate, lovely as it is in your mouth is sludge energy wise.
4. I’m slowly working on getting my house back in order, after abandoning it for 5 months to the care of husband and children. Hey look, it could have been a lot worse. Lots of de-cluttering. And then more de-cluttering. After living with a “capsule wardrobe” as the hipsters call it, and a sublime lack of junk in Cape Town, I came to appreciate how absolutely preferable it was to have only things you where in your closet and only things you use in your drawers. Getting dressed and ready was so simple. Keeping things tidy was a cinch (well ok my sister was around to clean up after me but she had to clean up a lot less than she does when she is at my house here).   Our living space was so tranquil and functional and it is my goal to get my home here as close as possible to the way it was there.  This week I got my bedroom back to basics and slimmed down Ella’s wardrobe too.  It was amazing how much more energized I was when I woke up this morning and contemplated getting us both ready. Excess stuff is an ENERGY SAP and depression leaves you with literally not one ounce of energy to spare so if you are depressed or just lacking in energy see about getting rid of stuff as soon as possible is my advice.
5. And finally, as  resolved in this post,  I’ve been trying to find a purpose to keep me from naval gazing. Which brings us to….
Yesterday was the deadline for the “help me to figure out how to have a more meaningful life” project and coincidentally OR WAS IT?  it was also the anniversary of the day that I decided pack it all in and drag my family to South Africa.  Check it:
Hah. One year later.  That was kind of tough to recognize. Because. Here I am. Back exactly where I started.  Relocation Dream Unrealized. Older, Fatter, Poorer. For sure. Wiser? I don’t know. Was the world improved for my time there? I don’t know. I donated a lot of money and clothing, I for sure supported the informal sector by buying all their stuff,  but my cash was so spread around that I doubt it made an impact on anyone.  I don’t feel like anyone’s life was significantly improved for my time there and that’s hard to accept. There are some other personal issues which give me a lot of pause over whether my time was well spent but when it comes down to it,  spent it was and so we go on.
I got a LOT of amazing ideas and input the last couple of weeks. And I’d like to link to programs that I learned about which I feel are worthwhile and/or want to get involved in.
The Brown Bag Food Project a local initiative which helps with needs of people in Northwest Ohio, but have also helped people from other places throughout the country. This project is possible only through donations from family and friends. 100% of all donations go to feeding families in need.
Habitat for Humanity. One of my personal heroes Susun is highly involved in Habitat and I am excited to become involved on a local level.
My amazing friend Megan started the Angels of Encouragement Ministry when she moved to North Carolina.  This ministry has helped thousands of people in Carolina and as far afield as Ohio. If you need help or can contribute in any way this would be a wonderful cause.
My dear friend Sandy allowed me to tag along with her and some amazing kids on a visit to Toledo with the Labre Ministry this week.
There is a tremendous amount of poverty right within most of our neighbourhoods. It may not be as obvious as it is in South Africa, and poverty is definitely relative but it is not hard to find people who are not getting their needs med either in terms of nutrition, medical care, mental health counseling, housing and education if you seek them out just a little bit.  I am confident that we all have something that someone else desperately needs even if it is just a genuine show of warmth and caring.
Another non-coincidence arrived yesterday (deadline of deciding which project to pursue) when one of the artists I had worked with in Cape Town emailed me to remind me that he was desperate to get a wider audience/market for his work. It seemed clear then that my choice was the right one.
The grand prize winner of my efforts to help figure out what I really want to make my personal project goes to a few different people.  My sister, and partner in crime Shona, who helped me to come to know the amazing craftsmen of the beadwork I fell deeply in love with in South Africa,  my friend Sandy who commissioned several big pieces of art and helped me to see how needed and appreciated this type of support is and my friends Nathan and Amanda who took time with me on Easter Sunday to start strategizing on how to make this happen. Right now we are looking into NOVICA but if anyone else has other ideas/leads we would be very open to hearing them.  Here is some of the amazing art we are wanting to share with the world.
Please excuse the truly shocking quality of these snaps, they were all taken with my iphone hastily and texted to people to find out if they wanted them or after they got them. But they should give you a decent idea of a just a little of the brilliance that is out there. The items being held by the artists were all specifically commissioned and finished in less than a week from order.
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Here are my some of my friends posing with gifts Aaron brought home for them.
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We finally got this dude reunited with this horns this evening. What shall we name him?
Now I could really do with your input. Does any of this stuff appeal to you?  Something similar that you could envisage commissioning? What would you be willing to pay for the items that appeal. How much would you be willing to add on to that for shipping. Any other comments or input are welcome and appreciated. Love you all!

On leaping from Ohio to South Africa. Week 2.

Today is two weeks since we left Ohio (although by the time this gets posted it will probably be Monday and 2 weeks and 2 days but as of this writing let’s go for accuracy).Editor’s note: now 2 weeks and 4 days but who is counting…

Week 2 has felt infinitely easier than week 1. I attribute this to a variety of factors:

1. Ella is not coughing 24/7

2. Ella is not whining 24/7

3. Ella started school and also started eating again.

4. I got completely unpacked and almost completely organized in our living space.

5. I got some sleep **

The week started off rough for Gracie but by Wednesday she was back into the swing of things. Finny has been rolling along as he does. All three kids miss Ohio a lot and would prefer to go back at this juncture but I would not categorize them as unhappy.

Highlights of the week.

Breakfast with my mom after taking Ella to her first day of school. That humble looking pie is a portugese custard tart called Pasteis de Nata along with rooibos tea of course. And it is divine.


Watching grandpa help Gracie with her Maths homework


Shopping at a real fruit and vege store again and coming out with a trolley (cart) full of beautiful produce for about $10.


Babysitting my beautiful little niece on a perfect South African morning.

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Enjoying my mom’s lovely garden.

Mermaid girl at the pool who later picked a flower for me.

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Ella playing with her sweet cousins. My  brother’s cutie pie little boy who is a mini me of him at the same age playing with Finny.


Face-timing with loved ones

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More South African chocolate.

Ella’s first Kruger Rand. She would not have looked this happy if it was gold instead of chokit.


Watching Michael school his clueless American cousins who are innocent to the ways of two year olds, keys and security gates.

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A couple of awesome South African thunderstorms, one of which left our backyard here as white as our Ohio backyard:

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Pre-storm, a picture Aaron sent me of our backyard (it gave me a pang of homesickness to see my cozy little house)  and our SA backyard at the same time during hail storm.

Fun conversations and laughs while getting lost driving around Johannesburg with my mom


Fun at the park with sibs, cousins and awesome auntie and uncles. These photos courtesy Uncle Shaun. Thanks Uncle Shaun

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Not pictured: seeing my brother’s very cute new house. It’s so special to me to be a part of big and small moments in the lives of some of my siblings at last.

You guys I have really been sucking it up in terms of giving you decent pics of South African life but I’m only just starting to come up for air and so please forgive. I will try hard to do better.

I am missing my husband and boys terribly still, but on the positive side, I feel as though I am growing a lot as a parent and person through this experience. Parenting without  my sweet Aaron has not been fun for the most part, but it has been empowering and I have been able to tap into a well of patience that I did not know existed prior to this time (or possibly did not exist before now).   Without my parents supporting us all through the logistics of daily life I am sure it would be a different tale altogether, they have been truly selfless and amazing.  I am in awe of their stamina on a daily basis when I leave them to put the kids down and almost always conk out into oblivion after reading and cuddling time, while my parents who have had as full a day as I have,  clean up after dinner, do a bunch more stuff, watch TV and generally behave like adults who don’t have a 8:30pm bedtime. They are often still awake when I wake up again around midnight and stagger to my own bed.

I have no idea how they do it. 

I also stand in awe and admiration of single parents. You are all superhuman.

I just realized today that it’s November. And this is the first time in several years where I haven’t done my 5 a day gratitude posts!! November feels so different here that I am totally disoriented regarding the time of year.  Anyway, today I am grateful for:

1. The fact that I am here. I do not know the future but a long held dream has been made a reality for today at least and it has changed my life forever. At the beginning of this year I saw the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with my sister Shona  and she posted something on my facebook page this week that reminded me of how inspired I was it.


I found that movie so…moving. It caught my imagination and inspired me to the core. Something small but profound clicked inside of me when I saw it and made me decide that I was not going to live a small, safe life anymore. That the time break out of my comfort zone had come. I decided that this year I was going to be frightened a lot. That I was going to feel alive. Sometimes feeling alive feels great and sometimes it feels awful but it’s better than feeling nothing. When she reminded me of it I realized that as of November 1st, and perhaps many months before that, I’ve achieved that life changing goal.

Regardless of what happens going forward, we have taken a leap and in the process we have felt lots and lots of feelings. I realized that regardless of how much more time my kids spend here, they are already forever changed. They have seen and experienced a different life. It’s been painful at times, they have cried. I have cried. But they have been enlarged and enlightened.  They have met new people, seen new things, learned new ways of doing things. They are forming real relationships with people they barely knew before.  I have felt stretched to the limit these last few weeks and I’m sure the greatest tests are still ahead but through it all I’ve felt ALIVE. When we were preparing to leave Ohio, I would listen to this song a lot when I was running, it became a kind of anthem for me as I hit obstacles with the move or doubts and indecision overwhelmed me and it is running through my head now that I am reflecting on these things. *When I saw the video I loved it even more. It reminds me of Isaac, an amazing young man I know who lives with CF.  But it’s absolutely the last thing that defines him. He’s funny, quirky, brilliant, creative, thoughtful, gentle, kind, generous. He really, really LIVES. He’s a hero to me.

2-5 ***See the top 5 points of this post.

Here’s to taking a leap, scaring yourself, being stretched and being blessed enough to have a safety net of supportive loving people through it all. Nobody could ask for anything more.

Elaborating on the cliff-hanger of yesterday


my friend Deborah dubbed me master of the cliff hanger today after yesterday’s post and I hate cliff hangers (does anyone not?) so I figured I would not leave you hanging longer than absolutely necessary. What’s one more afternoon of wrinkled laundry in the hamper right?

The other night I could not sleep. This is unusual for me since oils came into my life. For the first time in living memory I am no longer a chronic insomniac and it is so so special to me to be able to say that, but  the other night was a notable exception. I was having a devil of a time staying asleep.   Now if you’re a parent or you know much about kids you probably know that babies and toddlers often have sleep disturbances right before they make a major developmental breakthrough and apparently I am still mentally and emotionally an infant because after this weird restless night I finally popped awake for the day and out of the blue as my eyes opened blearily I had an epiphany. “We should leave in December!”

I had not been wrestling with this at all consciously. As far as I was concerned we would be leaving the moment we had passport and visas in hand so it was very odd, because apparently my sub-conscious had been trying to work through the logistics of it all while I remained blissfully unaware. But it made sense.

Here’s the thing. The Great Passport Debacle Continues.

OMG as an aside…I just wanted to say that  the minute I get this one I am going to start applying for the next one in 10 years because THAT IS HOW LONG IT SEEMS TO TAKE.  Anyway. Currently? We are all just sitting around completely unable to proceed. Here’s the thing. My passport was “dispatched” (according to the South African home affairs office) on August 4th. Yes, a month ago today.  There is as yet, no sign of said passport. Chicago consulate always unhelpful and curt are becoming increasingly surly with regards to our daily inquiries. NO! THEY certainly haven’t seen it and cannot possibly be prevailed upon to hazard a guess as to when it might show up. *INSERT ALL THE SWEAR WORDS HERE*** You guys! Governments SUCK.  Whenever I have to deal with consulates I fall more deeply into love with the idea of Anarchy.

The most frustrating part is this. Without my passport we can’t apply for visas (and who knows how long THOSE bleepitybleepers will take? Also A. can’t get a special skills work visa which will make him infinitely more marketable in the job search. Buggidy bug!!!!

Since we have missed the boat on a natural stopping/starting point now that the kids are in school, I figured it made more sense to let the kids get this semester of school and the soccer/cross-country season under their belts. This would also allow Aaron to join us in South Africa for a holiday in December and settle us in..(rather than making our way there alone). 

Additionally since we have resolved to be separated as a family for no more than 3 months (assuming Aaron can’t get a job before we leave), I figured it made a lot more sense for that period to fall over the Great White Northern Winter. Because if  Aaron can’t find suitable employment in time and we have to abort mission and come home, I can’t think of anything more depressing than having to do it just as Winter is hitting its stride.  Autumn in Ohio is pretty much my favourite thing about Ohio and so it is a pretty great consolation that we will be here for that, and get to experience one more (hopefully) Thanksgiving (which is my favourite thing about America I think).

On the downside, the kids won’t have a low stress intro into South African schools. Since school there is year around they will be hopping in with both feet when it starts in January but Aaron has pointed out that they will have the advantage of being ahead here by a semester so hopefully that helps. They are bright and diligent kids so we are fairly confident they will be ok but I was really hoping to make it as easy on them as possible since I predict that the culture shock is going to be pretty intense.

The downsides aside, I had been doing a really great job of focusing on all the advantages not least of which is knowing that this gives us a reprieve from the horrid inevitability of saying goodbyes to our wonderful friends.  Staying longer has also allowed Ella to have the amazing joy of going to school with Muss Cindi as her older siblings before her did. And these things have kept me from going mental over this ridiculous delay and I have genuinely been rather cheerful about it all.

But then yesterday I read a newsletter from the sweet little preschool Ella is registered for in South Africa (thanks to my insanely helpful and together childhood friend Heather…nobody should attempt a move such as this without an insanely helpful and together friend like Heather, God bless her every day)  and oh my…I got so  intensely homesick. The things they are doing are the things I did as a child. They are celebrating Spring Day and they are making Spring bonnets for a Spring bonnet parade just like I used to with my friend Viki…..and it just made me sort ache with such profound longing.  It really was visceral.

I realized that in addition to missing my family so much all these years I have missed my past, my own personal culture.  My children’s childhoods look so completely different from mine. And that’s ok. They have had quite  lovely childhoods I think.  But I have always felt like I was on a movie set raising them. It has always felt like pretend. Because their childhoods resemble the ones I saw play out on American TV (which we got on a year or two delay in South Africa) rather than anything I experienced in reality. So I know the parts and I play them pretty well but I don’t have any sense of personal connection. I was never there. I never went to kindergarten, I went to nursery school (and yes I know it is called kinder there now but you know what I mean..). I wore a uniform to school and we had break, not recess and it was outside on the lawn, not in a lunch room…and just a million tiny things like these.   I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced it can truly understand but…I try to explain anyway.

I have often said that when I get on a plane to South Africa I feel like I am exhaling and I didn’t even know I was holding my breath. Maybe everyone feels like that when they go home.  I wonder if I will spend all my time in South Africa feeling homesick for America. I am certain there will be a good deal of that.  I know I will miss our friends terribly.

And honestly,  I think daily how much easier it would be to just let this plan go. Just fly to South Africa and have a lovely holiday with my family at Christmas time and come home to my warm comfortable easy life here.  It would make a lot more sense.  Everything here is so settled. Yesterday we bought a van. It’s very nice.  (And yes, the timing is ridiculous no doubt but was that or pay for rental fees for the next 3-6 months and we figured that since we don’t know for sure that this move will pan out permanently since the job search is not going very well it made a lot more sense to invest in a van before we sunk anymore money into a rental. I really don’t have great timing for totaling cars do I?) 

Anyway, the van. Much as I despair that we had to buy one I have to admit…it’s lovely. I like it a lot. Mostly because it has push button start which means I get about 30% of my life back not having to rummage through my bag for my keys whilst saying bad words.  It’s the little things, kids.   Anyway the new van is pretty much a metaphor for life here in Ohio. You just push a button and there you go. Easy. I very much doubt that this is going to be the reality for my transportation or life in South Africa. Not to mention driving in South Africa is already giving me heart palpitations.  When I sum up how I see things in my mind in the most simplistic of ways lately it’s this. Everything here is easy. Everything there is…real. And real is scary. (And in reality, real in South Africa is legitimately more scary than in a lot of other places we could be moving to).

But today as I sat in the nice new (used) car, waiting for Benj at the orthodontist, a song from my youth came onto the radio. I used to listen to it every day during a period of my life when everything was on the horizon. I didn’t know where I would go in life and who I would do it with and what it would be like. But it was sure to be wonderful and exciting and magical. Ah…the late teens..the most exciting of times.  ANYWAY so I was transported back to this state of mind when this line from the divine Miss Mariah Carey’s (with profuse apologies to the divine Miss Midler) “Hero” jumped out at me. And I know this is very 16 of me but here they are:

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time
You’ll find the way

Ok hardly earth shatteringly profound, I know, I know… but in that moment I was slapped with the reminder that dammit this is my dream. It always has been. And I owe it to my 16 year old self who trusted that I was going to make everything I dreamed of happen for myself to see how it plays out. Maybe I will see that it is not all it is cracked up to be but I just cannot live with not knowing.

Sweet pre-diva Mariah offered additional encouragement as I glumly wondered if we would ever get all the pieces together to make this work, as I worried about all the money we would be spending and all the lives we would be disrupting…she wailed….

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive..

That’s when I was reminded with wry smile of how totally LAME I was being to even allow the thought of chickening out to cross my mind. People.  A move like this does not take heroic effort, people do more brave things every minute of every day and it is ridiculous of me to allow fear of unknown and the love of ease to lull me into letting my dreams go and living a life half asleep.  If it’s not going to work out for the right reasons that is one thing but because I’m scared of the unknown and a little discomfort? No. Unacceptable.

And so it’s a go. It’s still a go friends. It’s a delayed go. But it’s a go.

And then…we shall see.


Speaking of heroes. Are you following the Humans of New York blog/ facebook/instagram feed? Every update takes my breath away. It’s humbling, powerful stuff man. These people have more courage, grace and determination in their pinky finger nail than I do on my bravest most digging deep, all-in, day. Inspiring, heartbreaking and if you’re living to really wake up and live your life… instructive. If you’re not following, do yourself a favour.

What’s your dream? Are you living it? If not when will you be going for it?

Today (or last week but who is keeping track?)

Today I started out in a good hopeful mommy mood.  My first words were kind and loving. I took time to play with Ella, fully engaged.
I made a good plan for the day. I drank my water, I took my vitamins. I used my oils. All was well.
But today Ella was not “on”. Ella was off. Very off.
Ella has spent much of the day:
Lying on the floor
Peeing on the floor
Screaming from the floor
Eating bites of things and then spitting them back out. On my clean shirt. #rageinducing
Screaming some more
Peeing some more.
In between we have had very, very loud construction at the house.
4 other children whining/negotiating regarding their chores and paid jobs
4 other children fighting with each other regarding their chores
1 other child becoming hysterical upon discovering that everyone else had their middle school packet but she did not on account of the fact that we had not provided the school with proof of immunization on account of the fact that we WERE NOT PLANNING TO BE HERE WHEN SCHOOL STARTED
While I am on the phone to the Dr. asking them to fax proof of said immunization child is wailing to me about how she cannot go on with living if she has to wait a few more hours to discover which team she will be for her brief time at school.
I hang up and yell at wailing kid in front of people working on the house.  Classy stuff.
Ella is on the floor screaming.
A saw is shrieking intermittently.
A guy is at the door to tell me he is going to shut off my gas. WHAT??! (Frantic call to Aaron ensues, it was a mistake on the gas co’s part…but still….)
OK all of the above is where I abandoned my post the other shall we say Seriously out of Synch day where I considered it a literal miracle that we all saw bedtime physically unscathed and not incarcerated.
The day went on in that vein hence the fact that the above post was never published…. I’m not sure what day it was….several days have intervened between then and now. Some good some bad.  PMS has probably been a large contributor to the bad days but whatevs. I guess I wanted to show why sometimes I really do have good intentions but the post does not get posted.
Other stuff that has gone down this week includes…hang my iphone pics.
Ah yes… 5 Things to Tell You About From Last Week
1. fresh commitment to improving my cooking skills and habits.
The farmer’s market was gloriously inspiring this week.  I know this is going to sound so corny, but I looked at the vendors, at their hands all rough and grubby and felt so envious of their literal connection with the earth, with something so real, and genuine and pure as good, organic produce.  There is something about being outside that feeds my soul in a way that nothing else can simulate. No medication or food, music, therapy or meditation can ground me in the same way.   My attempts to garden have been met with mediocre results at best in the past and this is not the season (haha) of the year or my life to revisit that endeavor but I realized that I could do better about connecting with that good food by cooking. When I do cook in an intentional (rather than throwing it together as quickly as possible) I find it very rewarding and meditative. Chopping up vegetables is my favourite part…
Then we saw the one hundred foot journey over the weekend..and that spurred me on even more. 
And now..with all these good intentions, what should I make?
2. We did a lot of entertaining over the weekend. I had book club on the deck (by the way The Rosie Project is a great read). Gabe had some friends over for s’mores in the firepit and a sleepover
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and then we had a farewell get together to say goodbye to our dear friends Janelle and Madi who are leaving us for Washington state.  It was our first major goodbye. And I was not a fan.
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An exhausting yet fun weekend.
3. I’ve managed my stress not murdered anyone this week, solely thanks to keeping up with my running commitment.  I’ve been running mostly in the forest near my house this week. It’s an absolutely beautiful place no matter what time of day, and what season.  Here are a few pics I took the other evening.  Seeing that little deer was so life affirming. She was not afraid of me at all, even when I gasped loudly as I almost ran into her.  I had decided to stop and turn around just before I saw her. Something made me decide, very deliberately to continue for a couple more steps before I did, had I not, I would have missed her. I’m not sure why, but this made the experience feel all the more special.  She just observed me and kept on eating. I took several photos and talked to her for a few minutes until the mosquitoes feasting on me spurred me to continue moving.   My evening ran was so soothing after my terrible day (described at the beginning of this post). I came back a new woman. I felt calm, grounded, grateful and peaceful.
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A couple of days later I went at high noon. I left feeling energized, exhilarated and grateful. I remember thinking, “I have such a good life, I am so blessed” throughout that run. There are thousands of things I could and do complain about in my non-perfect life but while I was running on that day I realized how few of them really matter.  I felt so grateful to move my mostly pain-free body to beat of the music. To feel my feet falling on the soft and cushiony natural surface beneath, to see the incredible beauty all around me. To have a home to return to with people who make me crazy a good deal of the time but only because I am crazy about them.  I am so grateful to have people to really really care about. And who really, really care about me. Why do I ever drift away from running? Running or whatever my version is….shuffling, wuffling…it’s so important to my happiness, to making me feel like me.
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Today I noticed that running up and down the stairs did not feel like a slog anymore. I am still not running for speed or distance. I am running because I can, because it’s fun. I run when the music gets me going and stop when my body says to.  I am loving this approach.  Speaking of which, I am loving this article so.very.much
4. This week Ella started using the potty.  Pause for applause. I have photos but have resolved, for once,  to not be that mother. Apart from the above mentioned day from hades, we have had no accidents. I am very proud of her.  And yes, yes I know Ella is rather old for this venture but she has always been very very  consistent and  clear on her disdain for the idea of pottying, and I have never pushed my kids regarding this issue. Not because I’m a great mom but because I’m really lazy and I feel like if you can’t allow someone control of decisions regarding their own bladder and bowels then you are pretty much asking for trouble.  And I have enough trouble. Life is Trouble. Ella’s rationale was this:  Using potty meant that she was “Bigger”.  And  naturally being the smart girl she is, she wanted to remain Smaller due to the obvious perks it allows her in a family of 6 Biggers doting on her.  I’m not sure where her watershed  (haha punny?) moment was but with less than a month ‘til preschool starts (rollontheday) I was feeling particularly motivated to change her views on the matter one day last week. So.. upon taking off her morning diaper I said, ok, here we go, no more diaper or pull-up just tell me when you want to sit on potty. And she did.  And that was that. (Apart from the unfortunate incident on Out of Synch Day the next day). So far.  Knock wood, make sign of cross, spit on ground etc… (have just broken the number 1 Cardinal Rule of Parenting which is NEVER to mention when things are going well so I’m sure it’s all going to fall about momentarily.)
That same day Aaron took her to watch the boys high-school soccer   game. I suggested he take the potty with for use in the van so we could keep the momentum going. I received a text from  him that she was keen to set up her throne right behind the players bench. He felt that although everyone would probably have a very good laugh “many many years from now” he had decided against it. I applauded him on that decision.
She doesn’t even piddle in the bathtub.  She asks to get out and then does her business in the appropriate receptacle. This is why waiting ‘til kids are practically high school graduates works for me.
5. Speaking of high-school. Awkward segue yes, but really just coming full circle to the beginning of the post.  The kids will indeed be going to American school in 9 days. That was Not The Plan. But we are still waiting for a million visas/passports to come through.  Oh my good hell people. This stuff is such a pain. In our conservative estimation we will be here until early October.  Apart from my OMIGOODHELL moments here and there, I am mostly zen about this because..well it’s completely out of my control and also there is a lot to love about being here at this time of year. But I’m also frustrated that I can’t get my mitts on that new baby (BTW: warning: do NOT brag about getting to hold my sister’s baby in my presence unless you are in fact my sister or her husband or I will get angry, bitter and jealous and one never knows what might happen next…..)
Baby huffing aside,  I’m anxious to start the next phase of our lives.   I never do well in limbo. On the other hand, MY passport is supposedly in transit which has suddenly made things feel…very real. And I am unexpectedly terrified by that.  I have never wished more for a crystal ball than I do now.  Since I do not have a crystal ball I am trying to press forward with faith and view it all as a win-win. 
But why not let me take you on a little jaunt through my obsessions for a moment?
If we go and Aaron does not get a great job and cannot join us and we have to return, the kids will have had that experience of being up close and personal with family for a few months and exploring a new culture. Right?  Right.  But in reality life is so much more complex. What if they love it so much but we have to come back and they can’t stand it here?  They are perfectly happy here now in their blissful ignorance. On the other hand, what if they hate every second of it there and we spent all that money (ack) and then we have to return and now they are behind in school out of their social/sporting loops and and and and..they resent us forever for messing with their neat little world…eh that doesn’t worry me too much…they’ll survive. Kids resent their parents regardless, right?
Mostly I’m just worried about the money. Haha. As always. But really it is a lot of money. I also worry a lot about safety which is a harsh reality over there,  and I am absolutely dreading leaving my husband. I don’t do well without him. He’s the yin to my yang (or whatever the zen side to the crazy side is) and I really like him.  On the other hand once again,  I’m actually really excited for that poor guy to get a break and get in touch with himself for a change. He really needs it. I think it will be very good for him.
For the most part?  I am excited. Nervous and excited and terrified and resolved and unsure and calm and freaking out and and and….
I’m sure there is more about this last week to share but it’s getting late and I have to channel my inner farmer/chef now and make an incredible omelet with beautiful free range eggs and gorgeous farm fresh produce now….and then I need to go for a run.  SO I am going to hit publish on this one.
I started the day writing a whole other post by the way. But that one is going to take some time and work. It’s kind of a life changing one about some stuff I have been mentally, spiritually and emotionally wrestling with for a long time. But I want to do it right. I don’t say that to dangle a teaser in front of anyone I just put it there for posterity that There Is A Lot Going On Right Now in my head and heart and spirit apart from in my life.  I found it interesting how life sort of works in seasons. Seasons of stagnation/hibernation, seasons of rebirth/change.  Ok really hitting publish now..see if I don’t.
(Ella last night watching a balloon floating away.  I love this girl…and you know what? I think this is the right reaction to watching a balloon floating away..I could learn something.)

2013 Resolutions: The Hits and Misses


Despite saying I wouldn’t, (I should change the name of this blog to “despite saying I would/wouldn’t…” ) I made 10 goals at the beginning of 2013 and I haven’t told you how that all turned out and well…I know you have all been sleepless and waiting with bated breath to find out…so let’s see, shall we?

The Big One: Living life more fearlessly. Letting go of the fear of making mistakes.  I’d say that one was a hit. Many, many days, I would take a deep breath when I was wavering and ask myself, “what would I do if fear wasn’t a factor here?” or I would tell myself, “be fearless” when I was avoiding doing something (even if it was silly) because I was scared or intimidated. It was a very, very helpful mantra. I have so far to go still but that goal stayed with me throughout the year and will continue to be by my side going forward. It has been a good friend to me.


The Others:

1. Daily photo on instagram. I think I did pretty well with this. I stopped dating them after a couple of months,  it was just too cumbersome so I probably missed more days then I think, but I think I got pretty solid coverage all the same. Not exactly the most challenging goal for me…Score: 8/10 but if you are going to weight it for challenge..I’d go with a 2 😉

2.Reading from the Book of Mormon every day.  I went through a stage of doing this really, really well. And it was life changing. I started listening to my scriptures on my phone on my daily morning drive and it set such a great tone for my day and really strengthened my faith. I stopped doing that when the wheels fell off of my life and I lost my routine toward the end of the year but I’m glad I reflected on this because I had forgotten how good it was for me and I need to start doing that again for sure. Tomorrow begins that routine for me again. Score 5/10 .

3. Entertain in my own home at least once a month. I didn’t do this faithfully each month but I had some months when we had people over several times. My main motivation for doing this was to have my kids’ friends over more. I want them to have those memories. I think I made some major breakthroughs this year by having kids over when I was feeling up to it rather than when circumstances were perfect and the house was clean and the fridge was stocked. Kids don’t really care about a clean house and they are happy to give you orders to take with you to the grocery store.  I have really enjoyed having more socializing in our house. Letting go of my perfectionism regarding entertaining has been such a blessing. As an introvert and being easily over-stimulated, I often just don’t feel like I can handle stuffing any more noise and activity into this house and being “on” but taking the strain of my unrealistic expectations out of the equation has made for much more fun with friends here. Score: 7/10

4. Cooking. Ugh. We went through some excellent phases but they were mitigated by some lengthy terrible phases too….shuddering.) This year has not been much better than last, apart from in the last week actually, when we made a menu and actually stuck to it every night. (And I made most of the meals for the record…hooray CROCK POT). I’m really serious about making this happen this year.  I’m going with a  Sore: 4/10 and that’s only for the few good jags we were on.  I know this is for the No DUH files but a menu is so critical. Got to make those a priority.

5. De-cluttering the house. I did this consistently throughout the year in that I was constantly getting rid of tons of stuff.  It didn’t really all come together until this year but I did a lot of groundwork and am slowly but surely conquering my sentimental hoarding tendencies. Going with another 8/10.

6. Read one non-rubbishing book a month. This was a dismal failure but I don’t want to be too hard on myself. There was an awful lot of reading for school to make up for my rubbish reading earlier in the year. And I read a lot of what I would consider to be informative and good writing online.  Still I wouldn’t call this one a raging success. Call it a 7/10 but 3/10 if you are going to be technical about it. Going forward…I don’t know.  Getting a Masters degree when you have 5 kids at home is not conducive to getting a bunch of recreational reading done so I’m not going to make any major goals for this. I think when you factor in my assigned reading, I’m good.

7. No I did not write 52 thank you notes this year. I failed. But I wrote some and tried to express my gratitude every day in other ways. I would like to amend the goal going forward…at least one paper thank you note a month. If I can’t manage that, I am a pitiful person indeed. Score: 5/10

8. The 52 week saving plan. Nope. The wheels fell off of that sometime in like…April. Lame. Last year was a pretty miserable one financially. Rather a mess.  Lots of unforeseen and unfortunate situations. We were always taken great care of though…things may have been stressful but things worked out.  Lots of kindness was shown which we are always mindful of paying forward whenever possible.  Hoping that the coming year is an opportunity to give more and enjoy stability. It’s too late to start the 52 day challenge now but hey…why the heck not. We’ll start now.  Going to give this one a 4/10.

9. Getting my personal training business back on track. This has been a good one. I have added health coaching to the mix and it has been the real highlight of my year. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post. I have found such great fulfillment and inspiration in watching people throw out the excuses -there will ALWAYS be good excuses and EVERYONE has GOOD excuses to fail, but these people decided they wanted to succeed more than they wanted to have a good excuse to fail. It has been so incredibly exhilarating to watch as they gritted their teeth, put their shoulders into it pushed the walls down, and then climbed on top of the pile of rubble and got to look at the beautiful view that lay ahead of them. Not just because they achieved their immediate goal, and gained health, energy and vitality but because now they know that there is nothing they can’t do. The confidence they have given themselves is the greatest gift. I have felt utterly blessed to be a part of it. An unmitigated joy and privilege.  (More on that in the Fabulous Friday? still looking for a good name…series.)  Score: going with a 10/10 not because I made a fortune and opened my own gym and health spa (because I didn’t..just to clarify 😉 but because the purpose of goals is to find joy, to grow and to learn. Mission thoroughly accomplished.

10. Blog 3x a week. Um no.  See yesterday’s post for my plan to improve upon that this year. Score: bleh..4/10? Sure let’s go with that.

Well there ya go. More misses than hits or more hits than misses. Hard to say.  But I don’t regret making the goals and reviewing them has been a good exercise. I’m glad I did it. I need to put some goals for 2014 on paper/screen soon.  And tell you what my word/phrase/motto for 2014 is.

Do you care to share any of your goals for 2014? How’s that working out for you?

Taking Control Challenge: part 2. Crazy Coat Closet to Cozy Workspace Makeover

Haha! You thought I would flake again! Who me? Here, as promised…the big reveal..
By the way, I wish I had time to dig around for photos of the coat closet before. Cos it was heinous. No matter how many times I purged and reorganized it would just be a matter of days before it became a catch all for whomever had the living room chore that day. And no matter how many times I instructed, implored or threatened, people would not remember to close the door on the chaos that lay within. It made me mental. Pretty much every single day for as long as we have lived here. That’s  a lot of time spent feeling mental.
A couple of weeks ago Cindi came over and as is my wont when Cindi comes over (she is my muse) I suddenly got a bee in my bonnet to turn the coat closet into a little reading nook. I pictured taking the doors off and putting a comfy armchair, a lamp and a sweet little bookshelf in there. This would mean that the first thing people saw as they walked up the path to our home would not be a closet vomiting all manner of clothing and sports paraphernalia (and whatever else whomever was cleaning the living room did not feel like dealing with) but an inviting and cozy spot to relax and read.  Oh, it was beautiful in my mind.
The problem is we had no comfy armchair. We did have a small couch but upon dismantling three rooms to get it into the closet we discovered that we had mismeasured-by a hair and it wasn’t going to happen.  I was not deterred, I’m not sure quite what triggered it,no doubt something Cindi said, when it suddenly occurred that this closet had finally found it’s true mission and purpose in life and was about to live up to its full potential.
And then I passed out from the ecstasy of this realization.
When I came around, I got to work.
I determined that this closet was born to be a workspace. And we had discovered that delightful fact it just in time for me to become a student again!
Lo and behold…this is what was created. (Ugh please excuse the horrid photos. I am having major camera issues and in my attempt to fix the haze, the colour got a bit messed up but you will get the general idea..)
Now you see it:                               Now you don’t!
Taking a bit of a closer look. I used wrapping paper I had bought at T.J Maxx a while ago (and rediscovered upon emptying out the coat closet) to “wallpaper” the wall. I actually got the paper because it is incredible quality. Really really thick  and I thought I could use it to decoupage something. (As if I decoupage things. Bygones).
I did not want to paint, or do anything permanent because the closet is cedar (it smells lovely) so put the paper up with sticky tack. Yup. I’m classy like that. I figure I will get sick of it at some point and then I can easily replace it with something new. Ohhhhh! Fun! (These pics are better representing the colour.)
I mostly shopped around the house the rest. It was absolutely amazing how everything fell into place. 
The desk and chair are both from Ikea. Both for under $20.  The desk fit in there…to the millimeter! It’s not gorgeous and I do want to paint it white when I get a chance, but functionally it definitely does the trick.
The cushion is from Big lots on sale and the blanket (an absolute necessity for me, a cold blooded creature) was from TJ Maxx.
I used water colour scrapbook paper to line the back of the bookshelves because I thought it brightened it up. And I found some random sticky (but not in a permanent way) blue paper for a buck at TJ Maxx for lining the yucky MDF shelves. I thought it was so funny (and awesome) how well all the turquoise-ish things worked together. They were all bought separately at different times.  Truly. None of it was bought together with matching in mind.  How cool is it that the file folders totally coordinate with the “wallpaper?” Even the little metal can I have the plant sitting in, in matches perfectly, and had been sitting in my kitchen looking awkward for ages. It’s the little things, I tell ya.
(The blue photo boxes have been sitting on those shelves for as long as we have lived here and since I didn’t need that space I let them stay, looking pretty and holding photos circa 1998.
The little turquoise rug was also at Big Lots and I found it completely accidentally. I dropped something and when I bent over to pick it up..I saw it rolled to the faaarr back on a shelf. Judging from the ancient looking (and cheap) pricetag I suspect it had been there for years. It was precisely the right colour, length, width and thickness. It helps make things much cozier in here and (weirdly enough) it makes it easier for my chair to roll around.
What makes me happiest about this space is that everything is 100% practical and at my finger tips. From the wastepaper basket to the highlighters.  I finally have a printer..right where I need it to be.  Imagine?! My books are right.there. I have a calendar and white board right in front of my eyes where I cannot miss them.  This has already saved my bacon. This space was meant for me and I for it.  I do not need one inch more. In fact if I had one inch more I would feel compelled to spread out in order to use it, and I would become instantly less efficient. See what a blessing little spaces can be?
Ok no I’s the best part.  Unlike every other closet workspace I have seen (and yearned for) over the years, this one allows me to go all the way inside, and CLOSE.THE. DOOR. Because the doors are slatted, I have plenty of ventilation and I can peek outside if I need to but it’s crazy how effective just shutting the doors is for helping me to focus and helping my kids to remember that I am trying to work. When I was sitting at a table in the living room they would walk by and remember some random anecdote that they absolutely had to share with me right at that moment, and I would feel compelled to stop and smile and nod politely and make some pertinent comment before I went back to work.  You can imagine how well that went down for my ADD self.  I cannot tell you what the simple act of closing these little doors does for my ability to buckle down and get the job done.  I know this sounds silly but I do believe that it was inspiration. God knows what I need, man.
So that’s my first reveal on taking back control of my house and attitude. I hope to get the next “reveal” in the series up soon. We’ve been breaking all sorts of rules to make our house more fun and functional.
 And again, here’s part one where I talk about taking back control of my relationship with food and consequently my weight.

Swimming to the surface: quick hi, on broken promises, a teaser..and stuff

Helloooo my friends!

Ok so  has to be so, so super quick. I have promised myself more sleep and I keep breaking my promise. Last week I averaged 3 hours a night. Optimistically. I was going to bed at 2:30am and waking up at 5:00. It was madness. Madness I say!

If I were me, I would totally break up with myself. Case in point: I promised myself a 9:30pm bedtime tonight and it is now 10:30ish. I did have an unplanned nap with Ella today, see..this is how I justify my cheating ways.

As is probably apparent, I survived the first week of graduate studentdom. It was not hard so much as hectic. The learning curve was fiddly and irritating. And I just have It’s the keeping track of all of them that all but does me in.  The fragmented focus is hard on my ADD self. (Ironically it is probably my ADD self that created this nutty lifestyle for myself) And my OCD self is just not cool with letting any of the balls fall. Even though they are bound to now and again. I’m going to have to figure out a concession between the two. I did not realize quite how crazy the number of irons I have in the fire was until I was posting a bio of sorts for one of my classes. It got embarrassing. I am truly a jack of all trades, a master of none- striving now for a Masters degree. So hopefully I will at some point be at least a Master of one. No?

Regardless, I want to at less strive keep balance. My blog is a grounding influence on me. I feel the need to keep up with it to have some sense of normalcy and control. (Throwing the OCD side a bone.)  And in keeping with that desire,here’s a sort of nothing post.

But not really. It does contain a teaser. Tomorrow I’m going to post (with pictures even! I took them today! For the express purpose of just this post!) the transformation this last week (in all my spare time), of my hideous, horrible, rage inducing,contention causing coat closet, into the cutest little cubby in which I can hide and study.  It makes me disproportionately happy. I am so excited, I just can’t hide it. I’m not even going to try.

As is my flaky way I posted many a moon ago, that I was going to post the next installment of my “taking control” of my life report. (Here’s the first installment, about taking control of my body). I promised account of how I took back control of my attitude and love for my house.

Well as sometimes is my way, I never got around to it but, hey man, that’s ok. I have way more to add to it now. I spent the summer falling in love with my little house again. Becoming rather addicted to getting creative with our little spaces and not letting it stop us from doing whatever the heck we wanted to with it.

I feel quite empowered. I can do whatever I like! (Who knew?!) If we want to throw a big party, that’s what we will do. And if we want to study quietly hunkered inside a cute little closet, we’ll do that too. One does not need palatial spaces to entertain, or to relax in, or to live, or work, or sleep or ready oneself. One needs just what one has and the attitude that it is more than enough. Because it is, you know. Don’t let anyone try to make you believe otherwise.

Soo tune in tomorrow to see my little nook. It’s adorbs, I think. Which is good because I will be spending an inordinate amount of time inside of it.  It took virtually no money to create, and the process was fun from beginning to end.  I cannot wait to share it with you. I love it so!

See you tomorrow!

Ear-Lie in the Mornin’

Today (or yesterday) if I don’t post this in the next few minutes….or that one Tuesday back in August… (if you read this in the future…) Now that we’ve covered the technicalities…where was I? Ah yes. Today/Yesterday/That one time…
Was good. As was yesterday (or that day before that one day)
…Actually life in general is feeling much better lately. (KNOCKWOOD). I am so very grateful to finally be feeling more like myself…I am praying hard that I continue to feel that way.  But I’ve also been working on a better lifestyle. I have discovered a radical lifestyle change.  Are you ready for this?  It’s all sorts of crazy, I’m warning you.
I’m getting up early. You read that right. No I haven’t been hacked.
Here’s the thing. I get up early now.  That makes it sound like I’ve been doing this for months. Ok fine..for like…what 5 days now or something I’ve been getting up early. (See? It’s practically a lifelong habit…I can barely remember another way. Ok that’s just a lie…)
4 steps to a better muffin making experience with your host Ms. Ellabeth Sayer. On Good  Early Morning Sayer Kitchen….
I don’t know….I’m sorry, but I just feel like you’re not recognizing what a big deal this is.  So here are……
5 Things you need to know in order to grasp the enormity of this announcement:
1. I am not a morning person. Nor a midmorning person. By noon I’m still feeling groggy…I start to sort of hit my stride at around 5pm.  After an afternoon nap. 
2. Since one has to be awake sometimes (right? that’s a rule I guess?) I am, by necessity, a night owl. It is approaching midnight as I write this. This is early in my world. Like 8pm to normal people.
3. I am a chronic insomniac.  It’s always been a problem for me. I hate it but it is what it is.  No matter how sleep deprived or exhausted I am, going to bed before midnight always seems to make that situation worse. I get the kicky restless legs and everything. I must go to bed almost asleep or not even bother.
4.My alarm lately (and for the foreseeable future)  goes off at 5:10am aka “middle of the night sometime”…aka “zero dark-what-the-does–that-time-even-exist-in-civilized-society?”
5. Ella has been getting up several times a night. as is Ella’s wont. (PS:We really are the worst parents EVER in the history of parenting.Fact.)
All of these things add up to….minimal sleep. Like zombie territory levels of sleep.
And yet. In spite of it all….I have once again been reminded me of the stunning truth that…
wait for iiiiiit
Life is seriously SO MUCH BETTER when one gets up (voluntarily) at an unearthly hour. (Disclaimer: It’s not better at ALL when you are planning to sleep in ‘til 10 and a child vs.vomit situation crops up or some random drunkard rings your bell at 6am or your neighbour has a parrot…then life is much, much worse. ). I’m talking about doing it with intention.
Disclosure: I have been getting up to do personal training (it’s not as if I’m suddenly disciplined enough to just hop up after 2 hours of broken sleep ‘cos I decided I would. As if.)
{The school run, I realized that although Finny can walk alone to school, my days of him letting me kiss him goodbye outside his school (and even say a quick prayer today since we forgot at the house) are dangerously numbered. I want to soak them up while I can…}
But truly, it’s phenomenal the amount of stuff I’m getting done in the time I used to be sleeping. Like an entire day’s worth. Which means the rest of the day is available to do yet more stuff.  I can DO ALL THE STUFF.  Amazing. 
But really, when I took stock of what I accomplished before 8am the last few days I began to feel quite sick about how much stuff I could have accomplished over the course of all these years that I have been burning daylight!  I could have a few PhD’s under my belt….I could have learned how to whittle, or how to do a french braid that doesn’t come loose within 3 hours. I mean, really. The possibilities. Squandered. Lost forever.
{Pretty much anything Ella does, Finny finds hilariously charming. Here they are making muffins together. BEFORE SCHOOL!  The muffins were super healthy ones which I then intentionally made slightly less healthy… (long story, I will tell it later).  }
Last night I did that old time management analogy/visual aid for Family Home Evening with the balls and the rice in the bowl.
{If you aren’t a Mormon and haven’t seen this done 45,000 times since you were 5…this is how it goes: If you put the rice in the bowl first, the balls can’t all fit in the bowl. if you put the balls in first, the rice can fill in the gaps and everything fits rather nicely. The idea is that the balls represent the really important things, and the rice is the fluff and the fun}
{Early morning reading. She crowned him.}
It’s a very simple concept and it’s entirely true. When  you get the important stuff out of the way first, your day just seems to open up…really obligingly. One would think that I could have figured out how make it happen this way in all the extra hours I have awake at night but nope…night hours just don’t have that magically efficient quality somehow. 
Big bonus: Now I get to spend more time with my kids and start the day with them on a far less frantic and bleary/unconscious note. For that alone….100% worth it. The time is ticking until those kids leave me. I feel it acutely suddenly. The tick-tock , tick-tock and hourly chimes of their childhoods passing are clanging in my head…(it’s pretty obnoxious and rude).
I don’t want to waste any more time…I can sleep when they are gone. Raising their own kids and never sleeping-(haha…is it wrong that this thought made me smile a small yet evil smile?) ‘
No but really, I do need to figure out a way to sleep at night. Sleep is important. So I will be working on that aspect…
{Going for a run on the glorious pre-noon trail. Running before noon is far more preferable to running at noon. Just so you know.}
Another thing I’m realizing is if I start the day with the 3 things that I know are most important for my health (physical, emotional and spiritual) namely:  exercise, prayer/meditation and scripture study, I have way more energy, patience and motivation for everything and one else. 
Look, I recognize that  I’m not exactly an expert on this lifestyle yet and probably don’t have the right to be touting the benefits with evangelical zeal yet… but I’m quickly becoming a convert.
Getting up early. It’s a good thing. Must. Keep. That. Up. (hold me to it friends).
Now: If anyone has any idea on how to go to bed early and actually SLEEP, that would be super.
Goodnight, sleep tight! (or Good morning/good afternoon/good evening as the case may be…)
Linking to WFMW on We are that family because this works for me!