Let’s hear it for small revolutions

I’ve mentioned more than a few times about how I do our grocery shopping once a week — on Saturday mornings, generally — and that, by Friday, the cupboards are pretty bare.

And sometimes even by Wednesday, as was the case last week.

I was finishing up a book when I caught wind of some grumblings in the kitchen. My family was bemoaning the fact that there was little in the house they could pack for lunch the next day. There were even some complaints over the sorry state of that night’s dinner (random crap in a tortilla. I mean, really, they could do a lot worse).

So I pointed out the obvious: That, aside from Johanna (who wasn’t complaining, that’s why she’s my favorite), everyone in our household not only has a vehicle, but a job. Which means that any one of us can go grocery shopping at any time. That waiting for me to get around to it on Saturday wasn’t necessary.

Abby and Eric just looked at me. I could see the wheels turning. It almost made me laugh.

First, they apologized. I was like, seriously, no sweat, I’m just reminding you that you have options. (Truth. I wasn’t worried; my dinner had been fine.) And Abby was all, you know what? You’re absolutely right, which kind of surprised me but also was a lovely thing to hear. Vindication! I went back to my book and Eric and Abby started making a plan.

Abby will be living off campus next school year with some friends and she keeps talking about learning to cook — so actually, maybe that helped my case. She’s been in the mood for taco soup and, as our weather went from the pleasant 80s to the rather chilly 50s in the span of a day and a half, she decided that was what was going on the menu Thursday night.

They found a recipe. They made a list. Eric went shopping after work (Abby was going to do it, but Eric ended up having more time than he expected, so he made the trip). While I lounged around, they made dinner. I had to save the day when it came to taco seasoning and home-canned tomatoes, but for the most part, everyone left me alone.

It was awesome.

They ended up with a big pot of soup. Johanna has textural issues (she refuses to eat cooked vegetables) and made herself eggs instead, and I can’t eat it, thanks to my jerk of a stomach (although I would if I could), so I had a rather lovely salad with leftover shredded chicken instead. But both Eric and Abby were happy with the meal.

Once upon a time, I’d have been ashamed that I had failed to keep the kitchen stocked. (Or the bathroom clean or the laundry washed.) I’d have taken the complaints as personal criticism. And I’m not sure if a switch flipped or if I’m finally learning my lesson, but I can see that this really isn’t a commentary on me at all. It’s a little bit being spoiled. It’s a little bit thoughtlessness — because they don’t have to think about how the fridge gets filled. And it’s also probably a bit of laziness.

I feel like a revolutionary. I feel like I’ve got a new notch on my feminist belt.

I’m kind of wondering if this will be a lasting lesson or if they’ll forget by Wednesday of this week.

Note to self: I don’t have to do it all. And it’s probably better if I don’t — for me, of course, because that means I can do more fulfilling work (or not: Reading, writing, taking a nap, playing with kittens, whatever). But also for them, particularly the girls, to learn a few basic life skills.

Also, this makes it sound like Eric is terrible. He’s not. He regularly cooks, does dishes, folds laundry and goes to The Store That Must Not Be Named to pick up toilet paper. (He doesn’t like to sit down, that’s why.) But groceries aren’t generally on his list. Um, they might be now. 😉

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A belated Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in the U.S. was Sunday, but for me, it’s going to be today — because Abby comes home from college and I’ll have both kids under one roof again. And that’s my favorite. I know that we’re getting to the end of the line as far as frequency of this happening, so I just enjoy it and see it for the gift that it is.

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Where on earth has the time gone?

The words are telling me to share this Mother’s Day story: Abby was two months shy of 3 the first Mother’s Day she really understood what was going on. She had a terrific gift for language even then, and loved to talk. Eric and Abby had a whole day of surprises for me, one of which was to go to the town next door and do a bit of shopping. The entire trip, Eric kept saying to Abby, “Aren’t we lucky to have Mama? Don’t we love Mama so much? Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!” For her part, Abby would just beam at Eric and say, “I love YOU, Daddy!” and wish him a happy Father’s Day. Each time, Eric would look sheepishly at me — he was trying SO HARD — and it would make me laugh.

He never did get her to wish me a happy Mother’s Day.

Fast forward to July or August. Abby is now 3, and she’s running through the sprinkler with a banana-flavored popsicle. During one of her breaks, she looks up at me and says, “I love you, Mama. Happy Mother’s Day!” And I was like, wow, do I have a story for your father tonight when he gets home.

One of my best stories. And one of my most memorable Mother’s Days.

*

When the girls were younger, I’d get the day off and they’d do all the chores I’d normally complete on a Sunday. It was heaven. I’d read on the deck and the girls would run out and give me periodic updates on any catastrophes going on (like when they used powdered sugar instead of flour in a cake they were making). My gift was generally a new book to download to my Kindle. Perfect.

This Mother’s Day was a little different: Writing on the deck in the morning, a family barbecue at my mother-in-law’s that included my parents in the afternoon, basketball practice for Johanna in the evening. And that’s okay. I’m on the cusp of a big life change — Abby moving back today, my 95-year-old grandmother moving to town on Tuesday, and then the realities of my widowed mother-in-law — and I’ve decided that instead of trying to plan my way through it, to just let it come.

I’ll have three very darling people added to the fabric of my days. That just means more adventures.

Johanna has a lesson for all of us

On Saturday morning, Johanna woke up ready to TALK. This is slightly hilarious because she’s always been my quiet child. She is definitely an introvert and keeps her thoughts close. But suddenly, we’re knocking on the door of 14 (I know, WHAT?!) and she’s got plenty to say.

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Goose does not have a lot to say, but he freely offers moral support. And purrs.

In the midst of the word-storm, she said, “I got invited to a barbecue today, but it’s from 5-8 p.m. and that just sounds like a lot of social interaction, so I said I couldn’t come.” I high-fived her, because I can certainly understand the thought process behind that decision. “My friends also wanted to go to the football game last night, but I was tired and wanted to get home,” she added, and it occurred to me that my barely-teenager has already learned a lesson that I haven’t quite figured out even at 46: How to say no.

Here’s the thing: We often say yes when we want to say no. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or everyone else is doing it so we feel like we should too, or it’s just easier to go along with whatever it is than not. Or we take too much on. But for our own sanity, we need to have boundaries. We need to be honest and give ourselves the gift of putting ourselves first.

So that’s my new project this week, and to accomplish it, I’m asking myself, “What would Johanna do?” And then I do that thing. 😉 (I was joking with a co-worker last week that I need to ask myself, “What would Trisha do?” and then do the exact opposite. Because what Trisha would do is run herself into the ground. Not very minimalist.)

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?

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.

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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.

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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. 😉

Noticing minimalism

If this post feels rushed, it’s only because it IS rushed. We went to visit Abby this past weekend for Easter, which was really fun, but wow, did it mess up my usual routine. 😉 I like to write Saturday morning, then go grocery shopping, and have Sunday to clean house, cook and veg.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Not that I have any regrets.

Monday I compensated by going to the grocery store on my lunch break with 5,000 of my best friends, and then coming home after work and doing a bit of batch cooking to get us through the next couple of days.

Stuff that I can eat, incidentally, in light of my newfound food intolerances (probably a more accurate word than “allergies”). I’m trying to keep track of what I eat and how it makes me feel, and that’s been enlightening — it’s not SO bleak. I’m feeling pretty good, so it must be working.

I tried to keep to a time limit for my chores so I didn’t spend my entire evening working what amounts to a second job. I’ve decided that I’d like to enjoy my house rather than just look at it as a chore factory.

Anyway, who cares about any of that? Let’s get to the point: our weekend with Abby was just great. We got to do a few things that have been on her list — explore parks, coffee shops, bookstores, secondhand shops and bakeries — because she doesn’t get off campus very often and she hasn’t really seen much of where she’s living. And we really haven’t seen anything because we never stay. I love her college campus (gorgeous!), but think the town is a bit, shall we say, iffy — but after getting to explore a bit, I decided that while it’s terrible, it’s not THAT terrible.

And also, bonus: I had some amazing cups of coffee in that place, so really, how bad could it be?

Oh, bonus story: When we were at the thrift shop, Johanna found a cool flannel for $3 or something, and as we left, she was like, why don’t we go to secondhand stores more often? Better for the environment, no child slave labor, and it’s cheaper!

We don’t really have thrift shops where we live, I guess that’s the main reason. And I’m not patient enough to come back every week to see if what I need is available. But I agree, we should be frequenting them more often.

Back to the original tale: We went out to eat a lot and I noticed that most of the places we went had good minimal waste practices in place, like real tableware and plates and glasses/mugs. Still paper napkins, and still straws. But what I saw was encouraging. At one coffee shop, the kid behind the counter pulled out a mug and then noticed my travel mug. She was like, oh, you’re set, go ahead and get your coffee, but it warmed my heart to think she grabbed a mug first and not a paper cup.

I also noticed that many places we visited, like parks and restaurants and campus, had multi-level trash system in use (not sure what else to call it), with receptacles for compost, recycling and landfill. I thought that was pretty cool.

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Abby will be home for summer break the second weekend in May, which is just insane. Life will be back to normal in less than six weeks! It’s funny how we slip back into our old family routine when the four of us are together. I try to remember that when I’m feeling panicky because it feels like we’re scattered.

Lesson learned: It’s okay when they leave the nest. Because they come back again (ha) but also because … that’s the way it’s supposed to be. How pathetic it would be if she just stayed with me forever instead of flying on her own.

*

I gave myself 30 minutes to write this. How’d I do? Actually, don’t answer that.

Catching up

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I’ve almost forgotten how. 😉

I did something this week and last that I haven’t done … ever, I think: I took a vacation. And pretty much just stayed home.

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Hello again!

It was awesome.

I had five vacation days to burn before my work anniversary (it starts over on Feb. 21, ready or not), and I decided that I wanted to take them while Abby was home. Not that I necessarily thought I would see her, but just because I theoretically could. I wanted to be able to take her to lunch, hang out, and help her get ready to go back to school.

Which I did. I also finished a book, took a nap (why only one? I aimed low), played with kittens, and went to the coast (Eric’s family does a big reunion once a year. There were 29 of us spread out among three houses. That was also awesome, and another post for another time). There was a lot of coffee. I started writing about the lessons I learned from my zero waste Simple Year. I screamed at broken jars (that’s also another post for another time), tried not to pay too much attention to the news, and embraced the quiet. I tried to meditate, but I’m really bad at it. I’ll keep trying.

In the past, I’ve always felt like I needed to save my vacation for a specific purpose, and then the time runs out and I take a day here and there and never really feel rested. After my week off, I came back to work ready to go. That’s a good thing because I’ve been feeling burned out on that front — journalism is draining. So note to self: Take the week! Do nothing! Who cares?!

P.S. Winter break was lovely all around, and it was fantastic having Abby home. I love having all my kids under one roof. And yes, Abby made it safely back to school.

*

I always pick a word to guide me through the new year, and this year I’ve settled on “peace.” I tried really, really hard to pick another word, but I kept coming back to that one, so I decided I may as well just go with it. Like contentment, I feel like peace is a choice much of the time. I keep coming back to the quote I found for the December Wishes series: “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It mean to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” –Unknown

There’s been a couple times this month I’ve literally yelled, I AM CALM IN MY HEART, because while I crave peace, I find it rather illusive. But my hope is that this word will serve as a reminder to myself that peace is possible — that I can rewrite my internal narrative by proactively seeking alternatives to … well, the chaos, I guess, that tends to plague me (although there’s plenty out in the world too). Because I tend to make things harder for myself than they need to be is what I’m saying.

And so far, so good. I mean, we’re only 19 days in or whatever, but you’ve got to start somewhere. For me, that’s been identifying what I hold dear — i.e., books and coffee and my family — and incorporating more of that into my day. I’m also limiting my social media (and greatly cutting down my “friends” list and sites I follow), taking walk breaks, never being without a book, and taking time to introvert.

It all leads to peace. Or at least, that’s my hope.

Anyway, if you have a moment, update me on what you’ve all been up to. I’ve missed you! I’ll be back Tuesday with a real post.