Take it easy

I’ve been mulling some wild and crazy thoughts recently, you guys.

About what I’d like to do this summer (mostly just sit and read on the deck with a milky iced coffee). About how to make the most of my time with my girls, since we’ve got them both under the same roof again (at least until mid-August). About how nothing is static and change is inevitable (even though it’s so damn hard).

And about this blog.

I’ve decide to take a blogging break this summer. Not that I won’t write at all or anything, just that I’ll only write when I have something to say. I’ve been struggling to find topics lately, maybe because the life of a minimalist isn’t that exciting. And I want one less responsibility this summer.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to end this post, but actually, I don’t need to. It’s not the end. It’s just … a different sort of beginning.

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Books so far

One of my goals this year is to never be without a book. I really love to read, but I don’t always make time to do it.

Well, DIDN’T always make time to do it. It’s been a high priority this year. The Trisha way to read a book is to race through it the first time, then reread it at a slower pace. But this year, I’m doing it the New Trisha Way (wow, my titles need some work), which just means making it count the first time through.

This is mainly because most of the books I’ve read this year have come from the eLibrary and I only have so much time to read them. Also, the trend there is to reserve your six book limit and four to five months later, all those titles become available at once. Hilarious!

Because I don’t always know what to read, I made a list at the beginning of the year, comprised of Goodreads “best book” lists, authors I already enjoy, and Abby’s suggestions. This is handy when four of my six ebooks are ready to be checked out at once and I need to fill my queue again. It also means I don’t waste time overthinking what to read next.

I’m not worried about reading anything that’s particularly … what? I don’t care if it’s fine literature or not. I’ve read enough of that crap and I think it’s over-rated. (My Antonia? WHY WAS SHE SO STUPID?! Don’t even get me started on literally anything written by Shakespeare.) I want a well-crafted story that is entertaining; if I happen to learn something along the way, that’s just a bonus.

My booklist is as follows:

  • A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (second in a series of three and fantastic)
  • Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  • Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson (heartbreaking and wonderful)
  • Renegades by Marissa Meyer (love this author)
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (eye-opening!)
  • All Those Things We Never Said by Mark Levy (don’t bother)
  • Wolf by Wolf and Blood by Blood by Ryan Graudin (SO GOOD)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (wonderful)
  • Iron by Iron by Ryan Graudin (novella, also great)
  • Cinder and Scarlet and Cress and Winter, all by Marissa Meyer (rereads, totally entertaining)
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (loved)
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (also loved)
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (amazing)

I can’t say I really researched anything before I put it on my book list — I figured the Goodreads folks probably know what they’re talking about, and Abby never lets me down — and I’ve had a good run of great books. Going in blind is also a good lesson for me, that I don’t need to research something into the ground, that going by faith and feel is okay.

Next up: I’ve burned through the latest batch of ebooks in my queue, so I’ll probably reread some Rainbow Rowell. She’s highly entertaining.

All is well

On Thursday, Eric and I made the 10-hour round trip trek to bring Abby home from college. It was a fun day, actually, aside from all the driving and trying to cram my ridiculously long body into a cramped space. We got to meet Abby’s friends, have lunch in the cafeteria (ah, college food is so terrible) and walk around campus in between moving all of her stuff and cleaning her room.

A couple things that made me laugh:

On the way down, Eric and I made a quick stop at a little fruit stand that’s a big tourist draw. Eric found a couple of jars of yummies — pickles and salsa — and was having a grand ol’ time sampling all of the various items they offer. I don’t find much joy in a place like this because I can’t eat anything and just stand around waiting for everyone else to get done. It’s something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Anyway, we head to the cash register, and the kid behind the counter puts everything into a paper bag, then moves to put that bag into a plastic bag. We don’t need another bag, Eric says quickly, and then shoots me a grin.

Good boy. He is clearly trained.

On the way back, with Abby in tow, we stopped at a grocery store for snacks because I just didn’t have a fast food stop in me. We placed our items on the conveyor belt, and the lady immediately begins putting everything into a plastic bag. That’s okay, we’ll just carry it out, Abby says. Later, in the truck, she says, My friends were wondering why I have an aversion to plastic bags, and I told them about our zero waste year, and they were like, ‘That’s such an Oregon thing to do.’

I suppose it IS a very Oregon thing to do — we’ve got plastic bag bans in some of our cities, everyone recycles (even if it’s all going to the landfill at the moment, boo), and it’s not uncommon to see water bottle refilling stations in public areas. Not everyone here is environmentally-minded, of course. I used to work with a kid who refused to recycle anything because she felt it was too hard, and we’ve got our share of climate change deniers. (Don’t get me started.)

But it’s nice to live in a state where people are generally environmentally-conscience. Where refusing plastic bags and worrying about your carbon footprint are pretty ordinary daily actions.

P.S. Abby said she also tried to explain the wonder that is castile soap and how I make our cleaning products, and that really confused her friends. Most people probably do equate chemical smells with cleanliness … but that also made me laugh.

*

It’s so great having my girl back home, you guys. She is tired from finals and feeling a little melancholy as she starts a new summer chapter, so my goal is to get her rested up and well-fed. Friday night, we had a houseful of kids, which was fun — I’d kind of forgotten how loud teenage girls can be when they’re having a good time. It sounds like I’m complaining, but it truly made me smile. They were so happy!

I’ve learned this year that I CAN cope with having my sheep scattered. That my sheep come back. That I can enjoy and appreciate the moments I have with everyone home, and it’s okay when they’re not.

Life isn’t static. And that’s for the best.

Johanna is super happy to have Abby back, incidentally. People love to ask her if she enjoys being an only child, and she always frowns and shakes her head no. Because my kids are five and a half years apart, they have a different kind of sibling relationship. We don’t have the fighting and screaming — it’s more like Abby is a cool aunt. Abby takes great care of Jo, and Jo takes great care of Abby. (She’s the one who helped Abby unpack when we got home, patiently following all of Abby’s instructions. I left after about a half-hour.)

So all is well in the Walker household at the moment is what I’m saying. I’m sure we’ll have some bumps — Abby is used to having a lot of freedom, and although she has a very long leash because she’s Abby, there are some house rules — but whatever. My baby is home! I can walk into her room right now and give her a hug! What’s a few potential growing pains, really?

‘The battles of just one day’

Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the battles of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time. — Richard Walker

Last Friday, I found myself sitting in the window of my favorite coffee shop (again) with Frieda the Laptop, a perfectly-made Americano, and my stack of journals.

This was really more self-preservation than an attempt to get anything done. One of my co-workers took another job a couple of weeks ago (for some reason he wanted a living wage and a life. WEIRD), so our writing staff of four is now a writing staff of three until we can get a new person aboard. Which means that my very full plate is now overflowing onto the table AND the floor.

Tangent: Go hug a local reporter right now, you guys. We work super hard for shit wages and all we get for our efforts are complaints and accusations of being biased, fake news. It’s not awesome.

Anyway, Frieda and I were hanging out. My Americano was perfect. The coffee shop was fairly quiet. I had a window seat. The sun was shining. I had an hour to waste before my acupuncture appointment.

All of THAT is just to say that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about work-life balance and how I spend my time, about yearly goals and routines vs. to-do lists. About my girls and my husband, family and friends, and how much or how little time I devote to each. About decluttering and spring cleaning, meal plans and grocery shopping, time to read and write and introvert, and how I can keep all aspects of my life straight and focused.

And then I opened Austin Kleon’s weekly email newsletter, and the first link right out of the gate led me to the quote above.

This is EXACTLY what I needed to read at that moment. Overwhelmed and tired from a hectic week, my planner out so I could sketch a rough plan of everything I wanted to accomplish over the weekend, really just wanting to go take a nap, I immediately wrote the above into my notebook like it was a lifejacket that had just been tossed my way.

My brain is my brain, and I can’t really change the way it works, i.e. I suffer from monkey-mind, over-think everything, am high-strung, get overwhelmed by details (yet insist on them anyway), and am plagued by doubt.

This whole concept of just fighting the battles of one day is … refreshing. I woke up Sunday morning thinking, “What kind of day do I want to have?” and just focused on that. I didn’t worry about the past week or think about how I wanted Monday to go. I just thought about Sunday.

Getting caught up on laundry and reading on the deck.

Meal prep and taking a nap.

Getting all the cat hair up off the hardwood floor and writing just for me.

Anyway, my goal for this week (well, you have to think about the future sometimes) is to think in 24-hour timeslots. To sit in the present and not worry so much about the future I have no control over … or the past that’s already in the books.

I can fight the battle of just one day. Um, fingers crossed.

P.S. Another post by Kleon that I really liked is THIS one about work-life balance and how it’s basically a myth. (Well, one less thing to worry about, then.) It’s also about embracing the chaos that is life in general. Interesting to think about.

Life in general

We’re a third of the way through 2018 already, and I’ve been taking stock of the goals I set for the year. Some have been easy: Read more books (check!), less social media (easy!), exercise routine (walk breaks at work and morning yoga … sometimes … count, right?), and coffee dates with friends (check!).

Some have been harder: Taking a Spanish and photography class (can’t find either), ordering wooden blinds for the living room (too overwhelmed by my choices to even start), and learn to meditate (you guys, I can’t sit still that long).

Overall, I like my list of goals because it helps me remember what is important to me and what I want to be focusing on. If I don’t have a general idea of what I want to accomplish, then nothing gets done. As most of these are on-going, they’re not exactly something I can check off the list. But it’s satisfying to know that I’m working towards something, and that I’m not spinning my wheels doing things I don’t really care about in the first place.

It’s been a good four months. I feel centered, if that makes sense. It’s the opposite of how I felt at this time last year, so hey, progress.

*

Abby comes home on May 10 — yesssssss! — and this weekend I worked on getting her room ready. Johanna has been using it as an art studio, there were dead plants in the window from when she left in August, and a lot of odds and ends that needed to find their way back home or be discarded. I washed her sheets and comforter (so. much. cat hair), vacuumed the floor and dusted everything. I’ve totally locked the cats out because you know what? THIS CAT HAIR SITUATION IS OUT OF CONTROL.

*

This weekend, I also did some “reset to zero” housekeeping chores — cleaned our bedroom, got the kitchen in order, and got caught up on laundry. And I made sure to do some food prep too because that always makes the week go a little easier (homemade mac and cheese in the freezer for Jo, lots of prepped fruits and veggies, a rough meal plan sketched out using the never-ending reserves in my freezer). But I also made sure I had time to nap (is there anything better than a nap? Besides coffee, I mean?) and read (I’m halfway through “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng). My to-do lists have evolved this year, from never-ending to maybe three things I’d like to accomplish during the day. I find that’s a little more palatable.

*

Declutter v4.0 is well underway at this point, as it should be, since the church rummage sale will start collecting items mid-May. Mostly I’ve been concentrating on the easy areas, like my wardrobe, the coat closet and my reading retreat/family dumping ground. Abby also requested that I cull a few of the items she’d left behind when she went to school in the fall.

When I was in elementary school, I read an article about not putting off the easy homework for last because by the time you get through the hard stuff, your brain is fried and even the easy stuff is hard at that point. Paraphrasing. Anyway, that stuck with me, and is why I like to do the easy stuff first.

I’m going to have Johanna go through DVDs this week and do another sweep of my bookshelves. And then I’ll be ready to go through kitchen cabinets. We must be doing something right on the minimalist front because we don’t have that much to discard, but it feels good nonetheless. Clutter happens, no matter how intentional you may be.

*

And in the Ongoing Saga of Trisha and Her Laptop news: Freedom has been rechristened “Frieda” (Eric’s idea, hilarious) and we have had many coffee shop adventures together already. I’ve written three stories for the paper so far — I never have time to write stories because I’m always sucked into working on inside pages — and have formatted countless press releases. And you know what? It’s awesome getting out of the office and just … doing something different. It’s made work more bearable.

Anyway, Frieda is also looking forward to doing some writing outside at the park across the street from our office and in my parents’ backyard this summer. She’s got all kinds of plans, and she’s so excited that I hate to shut her down. 😉

On being alone

I found myself alone last week.

I’m never alone. Um, unless I’m in the bathroom or something, I guess. But generally, my life is lived around other people at work and at home. Even when I’m alone, I’ve got people nearby.

I’ve never minded being by myself — I’m fine with eating or sitting alone or going somewhere on my own — but I’m never completely solo, at least for very long.

Here’s the thing: Eric and Johanna went on a school-related trip Tuesday, and I decided to stay home. It was a cool fieldtrip … funded mostly by parents. The parameters were a sure anxiety attack — and, as I pointed out to Eric, I can be anxious at home for free! Plus I didn’t know if I wanted to burn through my vacation days doing something I wouldn’t enjoy. Not to mention potentially stress out Johanna, who is very tuned in to my moods.

My worry over Johanna going out of state without me, however, was just as anxiety-ridden as tagging along would have been. My acupuncturist told me that instead of fretting, I needed to make it Trisha Week and plan things for myself that I normally wouldn’t do. “Maybe get a massage,” she suggested. “Maybe just hang out in coffee shops?” I countered.

She said perhaps I wasn’t quite grasping the concept of Trisha Week.

I did make a list of things I wanted to do with my time: Have dinner at a certain restaurant and pizza place, have a coffee date, binge watch a TV series (The Crown?), read late into the evening, lots of writing time, and lots of decluttering and cleaning.

Here’s what I actually did: Facetimed Eric and Jo, and then Abby, literally every night, went for pizza (which was a bad idea because I’m not supposed to eat wheat, gluten, or tomatoes … and it messed me up, yo), hit the next town over and bought a laptop, and realized that a house stays a lot cleaner a lot longer when there’s just one person and a few cats hanging around. I had a coffee date AND a walk date with a friend, had dinner at my parents’ house (my mother’s French fries are the best) and ate what could only be considered incomplete dinners most nights. (There’s nothing wrong with scrambled eggs or toasted cheese.) I managed to clean out my bathroom drawers and get caught up on laundry. My anxiety levels were good, then bad, then good again, then absolutely terrible (WHERE WERE MY PEOPLE?), and then it was time to pick up two of my three favs from the airport Sunday and it was all over.

Whew!

I’m not really sure what to say about all of this except I need to work on time management or something because damn! That was not how this was supposed to go. Although I’m sort of wondering why I put “binge watch a series” on my list when I don’t even like TV or movies … well, except for Stranger Things. And 30 Rock. And The Office.

And also that even when I’m alone, I’m not alone. I don’t know, that’s actually kind of comforting.

But hey! At least I had some adventures to report on Friday when I saw my acupuncturist again. She had the grace to pretend that all my coffee stops were actually brave and daring.

*

Okay, okay: Yes, I finally got a laptop. A friend suggested a certain office supply store, and a very nice young man (who was probably in his 30s) helped me figure out what I wanted: Cute, light, with Word and the internet. Apparently he doesn’t make commission because he was very straightforward and patient and explained my options without trying to sway me at all. The super cute light one was more expensive than the heavier not quite as cute one … and it was a hard choice, but I decided to go cheaper rather than cute. Because it has a bigger screen and a 10-key. And it’s still pretty cute.

So I also spent a lot of time setting it up. I got both my work and home emails going, Word installed (well, Office) and then got to work uninstalling the bloatware. I didn’t even know that was a thing until I was talking to a co-worker and he was like, “Oh yeah, the bloatware is terrible on PCs,” and I was like, “Say what?” and he was all, “Those free trials and crap no one really wants.” Goodbye, Skype and DropBox! Nobody likes you!

It was more money than I’ve spent in a while — even if I did get a hell of a deal — but my work life is about to get way more awesome. I’ve named my laptop Freedom, which should give you a good idea of what this device means to me. I can write articles and format press release and public records logs just as easily from a coffee shop as I can in a cubicle. And I daresay the coffee shop will be a much better scene. I spent part of an afternoon loading templates and story notes, and was just giddy with the knowledge that I am now mobile.

Totally worth it.

Oh, and I’m being mindful of the programs I keep or load onto my new friend Freedom. Nobody likes you either, Facebook. I’ve got better stuff to do.

Further reading

Life is getting in the way of my writing this week — I will perhaps go into that later, although it’s about my girls, so maybe not — so I’m going to send you to a couple of other sites:

THIS segment on CBS’ Sunday Morning was fantastic — it’s about how money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness (unless you’re spending it on something you don’t want to do yourself, i.e. cooking or laundry) and that HOW you make your money is more important than your salary. Really interesting!

THIS post by Cait Flanders is a great look into redefining the way we shop — and I like her repeated emphasis that spending money isn’t a bad thing.

THIS post by Manal Ghosain (from 2011!) is all about digital detoxing. I’ve recently deleted Facebook from my iPod and iPad — now I can only check it on our home computer or at work (which is acceptable because I help manage the paper’s page) — and I’ve also taken off all news apps for the same reason (it’s just too much). I’m finding it rather freeing. There’s only so much I can do on my devices now … which means it’s easier to put them down and go do something else.

P.S. The girls are fine, so don’t worry.