Monday, November 30, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up #SOL15

This month, my book club read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It was a book that inspired a great discussion and confessions about our cluttered, messy ways. 

The author advises you to only keep items that spark joy. She invites you to almost personalize your relationship to your items, like thanking your shoes for their hard work when you put them away each day! When something isn't useful anymore or doesn't spark joy, she suggests you thank the object for its role in your life and then discard/donate it. Some things were hard to imagine doing, like emptying the contents of your handbag each day and putting every book you own on the floor to decide if it sparks joy or not. (Um, not doing that.)

I am a person with a lot of stuff and a person who holds onto a lot of stuff.  I somehow wonder how I would ever change these jaded ways for good, but Marie Kondo swears if you use her method, you would never be cluttered or disorganized again.  With the busy Thanksgiving weekend, it wasn't a great time to dive into organizing, but I was inspired from my book club session and decided to tackle one folder in one drawer of our file cabinet. 

The folder held all my high school newspapers and literacy magazines where I was a contributing author. I have not read these in years but the thought of parting with them was sad.  I recently started using the app Artkive since my children have been bringing home tons of art projects from preschool each week.  Artkive allows you to take pictures of the art projects and save them in a file for each child.  You can eventually make books and other projects with pictures of the artwork, while not having the actual artwork around.  I created an Artkive folder for myself and took pictures of all my articles.  It was really fun going down memory lane and revisiting these things I wrote over 18 years ago.  It's funny that I never really considered myself a "writer" but always loved writing and have really good memories and associations from being part of the school newspaper. The article below was mine, when I was "Kathleen Neagle" (my maiden name). Front cover story! :)

Some take aways from reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: It's okay to let go of things you have outgrown or do not need anymore.  No one needs extra buttons or old checkbooks. Your items should spark joy. Start with organizing your clothes, then your books, then your papers, then you miscellaneous items, and finally your mementos/photos because those are the hardest to let go. 

I love being part of a book club and reading a book each month that I probably would never have known about or read if given the choice. The friendship, discussion, and yes, snacks, all make for a renewing night out. Some of the most interesting discussions happened over books I was reluctant to read and many of the books we've read have stayed with me long after we read them.  Being part of a book club allows me to stretch as a reader, think new thoughts, and even offers the chance at a tidier life!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bah Humbug #SOL15

It might say something about my nature that as a little girl, I would start the Christmas countdown sometime in late October.  Cutting strips of red and green construction paper, I would create a humongously long Advent chain, weeks before Advent was even set to start.  A blue link at the top meant Christmas Eve and the final link, the yellow one, meant Christmas day.  Every night, I would tear off another link, knowing I was a little bit closer to the magic of Christmas.

So when did I start dreading the Christmas season? There, I said it.  I know, there are entire songs and movies and plays written about grumps like me who aren't in the holiday spirit. It's ironic that as a kid, Christmas couldn't come fast enough, but as a grown-up, I am resentful of how it is has invaded the fall. Sirius has been playing holidays songs while I still had Halloween candy in a pumpkin and when I had some time to shop on Veterans Day, I was serenaded by "White Christmas". 

The little kid I used to be would LOVE how Christmas is front and center far earlier than it used to be, but the grown-up, Mommy-me is drowning in the holiday "to-do's" on top of all the regular "to-do's" that haven't been getting done.  While there has been no time for things like, say, putting away laundry (anyone else leave their clean laundry in baskets for weeks at a time?), now I need to get two preschoolers to look festive and presentable and make them sit while I take pictures for holiday cards.  Then I need to order said holiday cards, label them, stamp them, and send them out in between lesson planning, grading, writing report cards, shopping for presents, and decorating our home.

I've often thought to myself that the difference between being a kid and being an adult is how you look at the snow- when it ceases to be magical and becomes an annoying hindrance, you know you aren't that starry eyed little kid anymore.  Maybe it's that way for Christmas, too.  

Yet.....some of my happiest memories growing up relate to the cozy,loving feeling that Christmas brought. Rolling out cookies with my mom and decorating them with icing, unwrapping the delicate ornaments from the shoeboxes where they lived all year long and feeling like I rediscovered a treasured friend. The soft, sparking lights of the tree in the evening. The anticipation of Christmas morning, new pajamas, hot chocolate, togetherness.  

There are little people looking to me for what Christmas is all about, looking to me for memories to be made. I guess the laundry can sit a little longer- I've got halls to deck. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Back on the List #SOL15

My life is made up of lists of things to do.  As a third grade teacher. the list of "to-do's" feels rather endless and is always growing.  As a wife and mom, there are many "to-do's" that sometimes don't get done because of the teacher list, but still there are the essential things I must do, like fill out picture money forms, lunch menus, appointments, etc.  Laundry, cooking, dishwasher loading and unloading.  Laundry baskets that sit for days (weeks?) until I get around to putting the clothes away. Another "to-do" that is hard to do. 

Please don't get me wrong. I am so grateful to have these "to-do's." I am grateful beyond words for my family, my children, and my job.  It's just...there is no room for me on this list.  For the me that isn't a mom, isn't a teacher, isn't a wife, isn't wearing another hat.  The me that is just me doesn't make it on the list, no time for her. And it's kind of taking its toll. 

Last year, I worked with a nutritionist for a while.  When I told her about my day and my schedule, I sounded a little frantic. I think she was a bit worried about my sanity. She suggested it would be very hard to make healthier food choices when I felt so deprived.  She suggested carving out time each day for myself, even if that meant sitting in my car and reading a magazine for 10 minutes before leaving work. I couldn't do it. 

And I still can't bring myself to "diet."  After a lifetime of low calorie Alba shakes, the "diet platter" at the diner, comprised of a burger without a bun and a slab of cottage cheese (I get angry just thinking about this), counting points, counting calories, cutting carbs- I just don't have it in me anymore.  Yet.  The other day I was at the park with my children and my son, Alex,  started running up the hill. He saw other kids and wanted to join them.  It was when my 2 year old, Megan, took off up the hill that I had the problem.  I was by myself and Megan was racing up the hill, heading towards the top and all I could picture was her falling down, rolling into the oncoming traffic. I raced as fast as I could up the hill, which wasn't fast enough. I was (am) far too out of shape. Thankfully the kids at the top of the hill stopped her until I could get there, out of breath. I do not have the energy or the stamina to keep up with my children when they run from me, which is sad and frightening too.

This park incident forced me to realize that I have ignored myself for some time now, as evidenced by my out-of-shapeness. Last week, I took a step forward in the quest to put myself back on the list. Knowing I need to embark on some type of exercise to shake up my sedentary ways and work towards more balance, I considered different options.  The one I decided on was Jazzercise. Before I was married, I was a regular Jazzerciser and I loved it. Loved the music, the dances, the pace, the time for me. When I thought of what would make me happy, it was Jazzercise.  So I enrolled and found myself kicking up my legs to Kenny Loggins "Footloose" on Sunday morning.  I know this sounds pretty dorky and silly, but it really felt good. 

And so, maybe instead of seeing myself as deprived, I will work towards thinking of all the nourishing, healthy, refreshing foods I can eat that will make me feel the best I can feel.  And maybe taking some time to Jazzercise will bring me back a little, the me that isn't a teacher or a mom or a wife or a daughter. I think she and I have some catching up to do, and it's time to add that "to-do" to the list. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

#SOL15 The Dance

"When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. 
It's to enjoy each step along the way."
-Wayne Dyer

In the winter of 2009, my husband Mike, before he was my husband, agreed to take ballroom dancing lessons with me in preparation for our April wedding.  Once a week, we would drive 20 minutes from our apartment to the ballroom dance studio.  Dennis was our instructor.  He was dapper, always dressed impeccably, and he was patient! Very patient.  Our wedding song would be Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" and Dennis choreographed a dance routine for us, teaching us the steps and adding more each week. 

Wedding planning can be pretty stressful stuff, but the weekly dance lessons were actually a fun escape.  We laughed and named the steps, including one called "Toss the Lady." We practiced during the week in the living room of our apartment, working together to master the first dance we would perform at our wedding reception. 

These days, there aren't many opportunities to dance.  With a 5 year old son and a 2 1/2 year old daughter, full-time jobs, household responsibilities, and more, life is far busier and more complicated than it was on those winter nights when it was just the two of us, learning the steps of a new dance. These days, flopping on the couch after an exhausting day is as much as can be mustered on most nights.  And yet, the memories of those dance lesson days bring back another time in our lives, before we were Mommy and Daddy, when we were a couple at the beginning of a life together.