Playing catch up

I was scrolling through old posts recently and realized there are some loose ends I need to tie up. No time like the present, especially since I’m out of ideas. 😉 Actually, it’s more that my heart hurts because Abby leaves in less than two weeks and life is getting a little too real. And the headache I’m fighting doesn’t help, either.

Abby’s birthday!

Abby turned 18 at the end of July. Last year, I worked super hard to make sure she had a fairly zero waste birthday. This year I was mostly off the hook because her boyfriend planned a day of activities. Whew! But for dinner, I did roll in with her requested Texas sheet cake and a corn, tomato and avocado salad, and Eric made her favorite cheesesteak sandwiches. Add some potatoes, invite some grandparents, and BOOM. Party.

I didn’t worry so much this year about being totally zero waste. I decided minimal waste was good enough. It was actually kind of relaxing to give myself permission to use regular powdered sugar for the icing. Oh, and we’re still using up dinner rolls from Abby’s grad party. That has been the gift that’s kept on giving. P.S. Anyone need ham? Still have that too.

The boys!

Monday was a tough day for Bean and Goose — they got neutered. I mean, it had to happen, but wow, I felt sorry for the little guys. Also, the deal was supposed to be that they’d both get neutered for free if we fostered Goose. Instead, we got a panicked text from Abby on Sunday telling us the boys had to go in Monday and they were asking for a $40 donation per cat.

On one hand, we feel like we’re getting a heck of a deal (and we are). And it’s not like we can’t afford the $80. On the other hand, we’re wondering A) what’s the rush?, and 2) why not just tell us about the expected donation ahead of time?

Anyway, all that is just to say that we’ve found Goosey his forever home — ours. He’s officially a Walker. He doesn’t say it, but I’m pretty sure he’s just as happy with this development as the girls and I are. And Bean is pumped. Eric is simply in acceptance about the fact that he is outnumbered, and Pearl is kind of pissed, actually, but she’s getting slightly more tolerant each day — like maybe .005 percent. It will add up eventually.

So that worked out well is what I’m saying.

My minimal closet!

I added a couple pieces to my minimalist wardrobe, but I have no idea how many that makes because I’ve decided not to count anymore.

Although maybe it’s a wash; I replaced both my black and beige capris, putting my old ones into the donation pile. True story, my new “capris” are really just regular people pants. This is when being 6-feet tall is kind of awesome. Well, because I can reach stuff on the top shelf, that’s my community service, obvs, but also because it makes a good story. Well, the office staff appreciated it, anyway, but that may be because they’re all under 5’5″.

My good reusables are still bad!

I haven’t managed to replace my un-sudsy soap pump yet, nor have I tackled adding a new layer and sew on snaps to my cloth menstrual pads. And I had big plans of making more cloth bags this summer out of Eric’s old t-shirts that never panned out either.

I don’t know. I’m better at the planning then I am at the execution. Maybe this winter.

Here and now

Writing about decision fatigue Tuesday and rehashing my early minimalism pursuits (and all that frustration) made me appreciate how far I’ve managed to come on that front in the past five years — from stewing about it all the time to really not thinking about it at all because it’s so ingrained.

There’s something to be said for reaching the auto-pilot stage.

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I don’t really have art for this post, so here’s a photo of my two perfect angels sacked out on the rug after chasing each other all night and generally being loud and crazy.

That’s not to say it’s always easy — life in general isn’t — but that instead of worrying how minimal my house/life is (and I’m including my zero waste efforts in that, too), I’m trying to embrace where I am and just enjoy it. After all, what’s the point of all of this if the only emotion I ever feel is guilt?

What if, instead of guilt, I felt gratitude?

It’s a bit of a mind game, gratitude. I’m no psychology major, but wanting more and trying to do better seems to be a common human trait. We’re not wired to appreciate the here and now — we’re always looking into the future to the next thing.

(Well, that could just be me, for all I know, and saying it’s a human trait might be some subconscious ploy to make myself feel better. Good news: It’s working!)

Anyway, all of that is just to say that this weekend, I’m going to focus on gratitude and finding joy in the present. My brain doesn’t work like that, I’m going to be honest — that whole “waiting for the other shoe to drop” thing (it’s harder being a pessimist than you might think 😉 ). But I’m just beginning to put a few things together (because self reflection is hard and boring) and I think this is a tangible way I can dial back the guilt and the trying to achieve more and just appreciate how far I’ve come, my family, and my life in general.

(Anyone need wine with that cheese? I’m much better at writing about the concrete than the abstract, but for some reason I think I need to jot this down.)

What I’m grateful for right now:

I have both girls in my house!

I have two kittens and plenty of purrs!

Eric’s fascination with trying new recipes (we’re eating very well at the moment).

Spending evenings on the deck with my Kindle.

Mornings when I can write before doing anything else (uh, aside from getting my first cup of coffee, obviously).

Being able to meet my best friend Mara for coffee Tuesday afternoon — and the fun we had visiting Abby at work, stopping by unexpectedly at my parents, and then finally coming up to the house for a kitten break.

That my friend loves my kids like they are her own daughters.

That I’m THIS CLOSE to finishing Abby’s senior year scrapbook.

Air conditioning.

All of you guys. (Hey, if I’m going cheesy, I may as well go all in.) You are the best, and I so appreciate your comments, your support and your willingness to share your own stories. I love hearing what you’re up to.

Happy weekend, friends.

Decision fatigue

I just want some peace.

That’s what I wrote way back in September 2012 when I came out as a minimalist on Pointless Ramble. Back then, I was struggling — I was paring down my kitchen, but was frustrated because it took a long time to actually get the items I’d culled out of the house, I was bringing new stuff in even though I was trying to purge, and while minimalism sounded promising, I was nowhere near achieving anything close to it (and being in flux has never been my strong point).

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I don’t really have art for this post, so here’s a photo I took for The Simple Year when my Lush order came.

So yeah, when I hold up THAT yardstick, I’m doing pretty well now. I have plenty of time to read on the deck with a cup of coffee, which was my (weirdly specific) dream when I first started.

(Bonus: Hell yeah!)

One area I still struggle with: Decision fatigue. Although it literally just occurred to me that’s what it is — thanks, Nourished Planner!*

Being a minimalist isn’t really exhausting, not at the stage I’m at now. What’s exhausting has been adding the zero waste element to this whole ordeal — not that I regret it, just that I’m trying to be honest — and the decisions that come daily from trying to pick the least worst thing.

Take, for example, the task of purchasing makeup and the thought process involved:

  • I need to zero waste my makeup.
  • What options are out there?
  • Too many options! What do I really want in my makeup?
  • Too many options! Let’s cut it down to cruelty-free, recyclable and all-natural.
  • What brands meet that criteria?
  • Still too many options! Man, I hate research.
  • Screw it. I’ll just start with foundation and mascara in glass.
  • Do I like these products?
  • Since the mascara is terrible, now what?
  • Guess I’m starting the process over again.
  • Oh man, I haven’t even tried to figure out eyeshadow yet …

Okay, for starters, the easiest thing to do would be to just give makeup up, I know this. The problem with that is I’m vain and I don’t want to.

Well, bummer for me, because I’ve dedicated a lot of time — since last year! — to this stupid quandary. I had a momentary reprieve when I bit the bullet and ordered a foundation and mascara from Lush,** but I seriously hate that mascara. I despise the tiny little applicator brush and that every time I see myself in the mirror, it looks like my eyelashes are melting.

The other day on my lunch break, I headed downtown to one of our little boutiques that sells RMS products. The manager came over when she saw me checking out the display, and I told her I was looking for a zero waste (or recyclable, really) and cruelty-free mascara, that my Lush brand wasn’t doing the trick, and (because I was already rambling, why not go full throttle?) I’d read about people making their own out of charcoal and, like, soap, but how was THAT really a good option?

To her credit, she did not laugh.

But she did have a ramble of her own: We don’t have to compromise on most of our face — our eyelids, cheeks, and lips — but if you want a mascara that actually works, you are going to need to.

Then she told me how the RMS mascara won an award and she was required to purchase it for the shop, but she thinks it’s so terrible that she tossed it all in the trash. (Please don’t sue me, RMS. I’m sure there are plenty of people who swear by this stuff. Maybe Lush shouldn’t sue me either for the same reason.) I appreciated her honesty, and I also felt better about my quest.

Because … I mean, I’m trying. I’ve tried. And, quite frankly, I’m tired. So I walked out of there feeling free, somehow. I don’t have to think about this anymore. YES!

The next time Abby hit The Store That Must Not Be Named, I had her pick me up my old mascara brand. And that’s what’s living in my makeup bag right now.

What this has taught me: I get so wrapped up in the details, of trying to do the right thing, that I lose sight of the real goal, which is, I mean, sure, to reduce my trash output, but also to bring peace into my life. Into my family’s lives. There are a certain amount of decisions that have to be made each day, and that’s fine, but for something like this, the continuous search for “better” is counterproductive. I have three pieces in my bag, two of which are zero/minimal waste (foundation and eyeshadow) and one that is landfill fodder (mascara). It’s time to move on.

To the next thing, I guess, although I like to think I’ve at least learned a thing or two from this whole ordeal. Unfortunately, as we’ve established numerous times, I’m a slow learner.

*

If you want to read about my early battles with minimalism, click the link above — that was my first minimalism post — or HERE, HERE and HERE. There’s more, but let’s not get carried away.

*Disclaimer: I don’t have a Nourished Planner, but I follow this blog because they have some great reminders about taking time to live life as opposed to living by your to-do list, which I find helpful.

**Not an endorsement of any kind! Do not buy anything on my account!

Also, you guys know that I chose the free blog option, so any ads you see here have nothing to do with me, right? And that I encourage you not to click anything? I was slightly shocked when I was bookmarking my blog for my mother a while ago and saw ads in her feed — talk about irony. Also, I guess I should have paid attention to the fine print. 😉

Hell Yeah!

Trisha’s Note: Welcome to a new (probably) bimonthly series where I blatantly talk about the successes — minimalism, zero waste, cats, kids, coffee, whatever — that make me say “Hell yeah!” I’m not going to lie — this feels SUPER weird right now and is not my style at all. I’m not really saying “Hell yeah!” but you know what? Practice makes perfect. We’re going to embrace the good and not kick ourselves over what we perceive as “bad.” And maybe learn how to keep track of the right things (whatever that means).

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Friday Night Pizza in all its glory. That one section with olives only is Johanna’s. We do what we must.

I’ve never been one for designated meal nights — I remember the early years of our marriage and women talking about Taco Tuesday and Pot Roast Thursday and thinking that was weird — but we’re on a roll right now with Pizza Friday in the Walker household. I keep balls of naan in the freezer and let the dough thaw and rise all day on the counter, and then we can come home and crank out a pizza in no time. It’s also a great way to use up the odds and ends in the fridge before my Saturday shopping trip. This Friday’s pizza: summer squash from a co-worker’s garden, Walla Walla Sweet onion, some leftover sauce from another meal, olives from the pantry, and cheese I whirled around in the food processor instead of taking the time to grate. Eh, it worked. Anyway, I absolutely nailed it — the crust was crisp, the leftover sauce (which technically had taco-ish herbs and spices in it) was fantastic, and the whole thing went down very well as I sat on our patio and decompressed from a very Friday-ish Friday.

Hell yeah!

This week’s menu plan has been: Whatever Happened To Be At The Farmers’ Market. This has actually worked out pretty well. Monday’s dinner was chicken salad (well, chicken on salad), and Tuesday’s was that plus zucchini pancakes, watermelon (Hermiston melons are out now! This is a good day in Oregon) and green beans (I don’t like them soggy, so I stick them in a pan with a little water, bring that to a boil, then take them off. They’re not really cooked, but they’re a little more tender). For today, I roasted fennel, new potatoes and eggplant last night when the kitchen was slightly cooler (we’re in the 100ºs this week but I’m not complaining after our super snowy winter) to go with the leftover chicken and never-ending salad.

Mostly local, fairly zero waste, and oh yeah, the kid who filled my jar with chicken — which I then tossed in the crock pot to cook — was extremely helpful and awesome and nonchalant about the whole ordeal.

Can I get a “Hell yeah!”

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It’s easy to tell the boys apart — Goose always looks mildly concerned. (Goose at left, Bean at right.)

The boys — aka Bean and Goose — are settling in just fine. Well, Bean had no problem with that at all; I think it took him all of a day and a half before he was marching around the joint, tail straight up, like he knew he was home. It’s taken Goosey a little longer, but this weekend we seemed to turn a corner. He’s still looking up at us with those big eyes, and sometimes I can see him quaking a little, but he’s actually letting us pick him up, or stay in the room when we walk by instead of scurrying under the nearest hidey-hole.

(Bonus: Both boys seem to love being under the hutch, which I haven’t dusted under in, like, 14 years. They’re dusting it for me, bless their hearts.)

On Saturday night, Bean was sprawled out on our bed completely knocked out, and we decided to let him stay. (Usually we keep the door closed because kids, cats — we just want to sleep.) About a half-hour after the light went off, Goose found us. He must have felt braver in the dark, because all of a sudden, we’re under attack. Or Bean was under attack, and they were rolling around all over us. Can we be done with this now? Eric finally asked, and I was like, yep. So the kittens got tossed. But it was kind of nice to know that they’re THAT comfortable with us.

Heck yeah! (That’s for those of you who don’t like swearing. Hi, Mom!)

We’re at that magical time of year when we have more blueberries than we know what to do with. I’ve already got three gallons in the freezer — used my new half-gallon jars and I’m really pleased how that is working out — so I decided to try drying them.

I mean, I make a no-bake granola bar every week that takes 2 cups of dried fruit. Dried fruit is expensive. I thought maybe this would be a nice local alternative.

Uh, I think I dried them too long because they are, shall we say, slightly crunchy with a taste reminiscent of charcoal. I’m pretty sure that’s not how they’re supposed to be. But I’m kind of scared to try again.

Yeah, I’ll still use them. What could happen?

Uh, maybe a partial Hell yeah! because … fearlessness in experimentation? 😉

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Look! I taught Abby how to wrap a sandwich!

Abby and her boyfriend hit Portland last weekend (and only got horribly lost once!) and she packed a lunch for them to take. We have a lot of containers and she’s used to that, but I had to laugh when she pulled out linen napkins to wrap their sandwiches. She was like, I need a rubber band to keep this closed, and I was all, how have I not shown you this yet? and then taught her how to wrap it so you can tie off the ends. (Basically: Lay the napkin out flat. Put the thing you’re wrapping in one corner, diagonally, and then start folding it, cinnamon roll style, until you come to the end piece. Then tie the two “handle” pieces together and tuck the end piece under. I’m sorry — I tried to find a tutorial but couldn’t.)

She was amazed at my skillz. I am pretty amazing sometimes. Anyway, lunch was a success and no rubber bands were harmed in the packing of said lunch.

Hell yeah!

(I do sort of wonder what her boyfriend thinks of our lifestyle. The first time he ate dinner with us and Eric tossed cloth napkins on the table — which were really just random dish towels — I was like, uh, has Abby told you about our zero waste and minimalist tendencies? And he just looked at me and said, that’s awesome. And that was that. But does he think we’re weird? I mean, we are weird, but I don’t want him to think that we’re weird.)

Now: What “Hell yeah!” moments have you had this week? Remember, we’re focusing on the positive and how great we are instead of worrying about what we could have done better. 🙂

Hell Yeah!: An introduction

I’ve gotten a couple of signs from the universe lately that I need to stop worrying so much about what I’m not doing and start paying attention to what I am. The first came from our lovely friend Sarah (hi, Sarah!), who commented on a recent post:

2. We can’t be perfect and let not it be the enemy of good. You, and I, do so much more than the average person, we shouldn’t focus on the set backs or the ‘not good enoughs’

I had one of those “Connection!” moments, as Johanna used to say in kindergarten, when something in real life met up with something she’d learned in class. It’s like the lightbulb not only flashes, it pops because of all the power behind it.

The second came from a post by Rowdy Kittens (the only “big” blog I still follow), where she shared this quote:

“Those of us who are lucky enough to live in a world where we have enough and we have a roof and we have food — we find ourselves caught in this cycle of keeping track of the wrong things. Keeping track of how many times we’ve been rejected. Keeping track of how many times it didn’t work. Keeping track of all the times someone has broken our heart or double-crossed us or let us down. Of course, we can keep track of those things, but why? Why keep track of them? Are they making us better?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep track of the other stuff? To keep track of all the times it worked? All the times we took a risk? All the times we were able to brighten someone else’s day? When we start doing that, we can redefine ourselves as people who are able to make an impact on the world. It took me a bunch of cycles to figure out that the narrative was up to me.” —Seth Godin

She also posted a mini-action — for her, it was ordering a new gratitude journal. For me, it’s going to be paying attention to successes — literally ANY successes, minimalist, zero waste, kittens, whatever — to acknowledge, to be thankful, and to just …

… Well, maybe change my mindset. I tend to be a pessimist (although I would argue “realist”) and I’m pretty hard on myself. I can forgive others practically anything. I cannot forgive myself that easily. I also have this weird thing where I feel like noting anything good that happens is showing off / bragging / not worth mentioning because you just know the other shoe is going to drop and it’s all going to go away (it’s a fine line between pessimism and being realistic 😉 ).

But I’m 45. The world right now feels bleak. And I’m trying to come to terms with having one kid off to college.

So! “Hell Yeah!” will focus on “the other stuff.” I’m not sure what sort of “impact on the world” this will have (let’s get real) but I can change the narrative, at least in Trishaville.

I know I’m a Tuesday/Friday post kind of girl, but tomorrow I’ll post my Hell Yeah’s, and your assignment for today is to pay attention to your victories so you can share them in the comments.

We’re awesome, you guys. We can totally do this.

When life gives you kittens part II

It was only last November that I wrote on The Simple Year about how our sweet Bear fell out of the woodpile on Election Day. In that thrilling saga, we had to bottle feed the little guy because he was only 2-3 weeks old, and he was not litter box trained, so we were doing a lot of laundry.

THIS time around is much easier. Bean is older, for one thing, so he can feed himself, use the litter box, lap up water, and jump up and down on his own (Bear never did learn that particular skill).

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I hate to complain, because he’s always so excited about helping, but Bean is TERRIBLE at folding laundry.

I don’t know what is up with us, if we’re kitten magnets or what, but we have another exciting addition to the Story of How We Got Bean:

Um, now we have his brother, Goose.

A) Johanna named him* and 2) He’s our foster cat. Animal rescue contacted Abby to see if we’d be interesting in housing Goose until he gets big enough to neuter, and for our trouble, they’ve offered to neuter Bean for free. Abby called Eric this time, because my husband loves a bargain and this is right up his alley. I seem to be the only person who thinks this is a terrible idea — well, not terrible, because Goosey is just as adorable as Bean and now I have a matched set — but because how in the world are we going to part with him when it’s time?

Am I the only one who sees the flaw in this plan? Apparently so. I’m trying my best not to get too attached.

That’s actually not as hard as you’d think it would be because Goose has had a rougher time that Bean in transitioning to life in the Walker household. Where Bean is out exploring, climbing and generally making himself known, Goose is hiding … under the couch, under the bed, under the hutch, behind the toilet. I have to bring his food to him in order to make sure he’s eating. He looks at us with these big blinking eyes and then scurries away.

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It took me FOREVER to get this pic of Goose. He’d rather hide.

It’s kind of heartbreaking, actually. What were you up to for those 72 hours before you came to us, Goosey?

Oh, but when I can catch him, he is quite the snuggler … and it’s hilarious to watch the boys play together. They’re nearly identical, but it’s easy to tell them apart. Mostly because Goose is always hiding.

Pearl is not amused by any of this, but eh, she’ll come around. Or maybe she won’t. I’m not fussed. Back in the day, our old cat Madie was no fan of our new cat Skilly, and they never did become friends. And it was fine — somehow they managed to work around each other.

One more question: Now that cat rescue has our number, is this going to be our new gig? Fostering cats? Am I supposed to be learning the lesson of letting go? News flash, Life: I ALREADY AM. Abby leaves in a month. Although, upside, usually I get lessons in patience, so at least this is a change of pace. 😉

P.S. Abby’s birthday was yesterday — 18, whaaaaat? — so I’ll share details next week. I tell you what, I am getting very good at minimal, zero waste-ish parties all of a sudden.

*Yeah, my kids are really horrible at naming things.