Friday, June 3, 2016

Parenting: A Little Crunchy

A few weeks ago, a mom friend was telling me about the health reset she was leading at her gym. I mentioned that I could use something like that and she commented that I already practice some of what she was teaching and that I was "a little crunchy". She did not mean it in a negative way but it gave me pause. I had never thought of myself as crunchy. In that moment, I could see myself as she did- Emaline and I cook homemade granola for goodness sake!

As somebody who overthinks things, the phrase tossed in my mind. I was stuck, not on whether she was right but when did this happen? I had not always been this way. I used to not read labels or think twice about where my money went. I used to think a bagel for breakfast and frozen pizza for dinner constituted a well-balanced diet. But somewhere, something changed.

And I began to hear myself: talk about the food we eat, the products I purchase, my desire to buy and own less, and my hope that the planet begins to tilt in a more conscious way.

I have to admit, it does sound a little crunchy.

But it's not. Not really. It is just wanting better. It is being aware of the problems that we face and wanting to make changes to make the world a happier, healthier, more peaceful place. If not for me, then for Emaline. 

I realized then when this happened: When I became a mom. 

I was eight months pregnant when my hometown was bombed. I have to shut the television off because the news is too much for a little person to see. The first time I fed my child a jar of baby food, a rash broke out on her face. The day she was born, I looked at her and knew I would do anything to keep her safe. The list goes on.

As a parent, your stake in the game changes. I feel responsible, not only for my child but the world that is left to her. And so things began to shift. It will never be perfect but I can never stop trying. 

Change requires making conscious decisions, small choices over and over that will improve her life today and tomorrow. I am striving for something better and I think things like kindness, generosity, and taking care of our planet are keys to getting there. I also love homemade granola. So I guess I am a little crunchy.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Unexpected Story: Wine Glasses

Last date in Observatory Park in 2004

In November 2004, Nick and I went on a date in Sydney. It was our last date before the end of our trip. The end of the five months when we met, fell in love, and went on the most incredible adventures. We walked the streets that had become so familiar and stopped in a number of stores to gather items for a picnic. We even stopped in a small gift shop and purchased two beautifully painted wine glasses. Late that afternoon we headed to our favorite park in the city and stayed for hours. We drank wine out of our new glasses, watched the sunset, and talked about what would happen next.

A week later, Nick left Australia. When I returned to my dorm room after saying goodbye, I found a note on my desk. In it, he explained that since we couldn't be in the same place right now, our wine glasses would stay together and we would pass them between us. Since we had planned that I would visit him in Minnesota over the New Year, he would bring the glasses home with him until that time, and so on.

New Year's Eve Party 2005. Australian wine glasses.

Sure enough, on December 31st Nick and I were at party in Minnesota. I was meeting all of his friends and we were drinking from our wine glasses painted with aboriginal art. A few hours and glasses of wine later, my glass was sitting on the kitchen counter when a girl swung her arms out. I watched, as if in slow motion, as my glass shot across the granite and shattered on the floor. Without a thought of composure, I crumpled over the broken shards and cried. I unintentionally made a small scene in front of Nick's friends who did not yet know me. Only a few seconds passed before embarrassment overshadowed my disappointment and I rushed out of the room.

In my absence, Nick's sweet friend, Myles found a tupperware container and swept the pieces into it for me. After I returned to the kitchen, explained myself, reassured everyone that I was fine, and cradled the plastic container- the party resumed.

When I left Minnesota at the end of that week, I did bring the intact wine glass and the tupperware container back to Boston in my suitcase. When I got home, they were packed in a box of fragile items and for years, every move, every apartment, the glass and the tupperware moved with me and then with us.

A few days ago, as I wrote about in this post, I pulled the glass and the tupperware out of the box. I decided that we should start using the one that is not broken and either make something with the broken pieces or finally toss it out.

Last night, we used the glass for the first time in eleven years and right before we went to bed, Nick knocked the glass off a table and it broke into pieces.

I did not crumple. I did not cry. But it wasn't until this morning that I started to laugh about all of this. So now I ask, does anybody have any experience with mosaic?

Both glasses in the tupperware.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Devote Yourself: March Forth

Today is the only day of the year that is a command. I know that because it is also my wonderful friend Erica's birthday. She wrote a guest post here and I wrote about her here. Her birthday on this day makes so much sense. Quotes about being brave and travelling have a tendency to remind me of her. She knows how to move through life and embrace each new experience. It is something I truly admire. Happy birthday dear friend!

What are you doing to march forth in your life?

Nick was working on our taxes today and filed me as an official business. Pretty cool!

Also, the other day my SIL Elise (whose Etsy shop is here) and I submitted an application to sell cold press coffee at the Portsmouth farmer's market. Cross your fingers that Lula Cold Press will debut this summer!

And finally, I have mentioned briefly before that I serve as a volunteer board member for a group called YP4M. It is a junior board for Big Brothers Big Sisters

Because you've probably heard of BBBS but maybe don't know exactly what they do or who they are, I'll share this snippet from their website:

For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country. We develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

And YP4M functions in support of this mission. The biggest way we contribute is to put on one large fundraising event each year- the Stiletto Sprint. It is a 40 yard dash in high heels in the middle of downtown to raise money and awareness for a great cause. We rely on corporate sponsors, race registrations, and general donations to reach our goal. And the money goes a long way to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire. 

All of this to say that I am excited and so grateful to be working on such wonderful projects!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Space for Creativity: Bring to Life

Yesterday, I was listening to this podcast and I was inspired to go through boxes in my basement. Bins that are labeled "Kerin's Keepsakes", "Kerin's Stuff Fragile", "Kerin Wedding", and "Kerin Photos". I vaguely knew what was in them but not entirely. Between last night and this morning, I picked up each item and made a decision. I narrowed from four overstuffed bins to one. Some things I threw away, some I donated, and some really important items moved from being stashed in a box to actually being displayed in my house. Pretty awesome.

I also found something I wrote. I don't know when I wrote it. My guess is a year or two after college. I used to create things like this as an exercise against writer's block. I showed it to Nick and he said I should put it on my blog. Why not? What strikes me about the piece is my relationship with Creativity. It seems to be doing much better these days. But like anything that close to my heart, I'll always worry.

Bring to Life

Out of practice. I can only hope that the imagination which brought me so far as a child is able to be revived. I hope it is not too late to pull out the paddles and resuscitate. Creativity lies on the operating table: split open and spilling, spreading across the floor, creating a mess. I hover above it and try to recognize my old friend. I wonder how I let it get this far. I press down hard, waiting for a response. Nothing. I look at the screen searching for hope, waiting for a flicker to tell me- "you've still got it." Nothing. I try again.

If it is gone, then what? 

Creativity has been such a dear friend. All of the make-pretend games as a child, the fantasies, the dreams, and most importantly- the stories. When I needed an escape, I merely had to let my fingers fall. A-S-D-F-J-K-L-;. Squint my eyes and lightly move my lips. It was my secret recipe. Stir well and wait for my friend to tip-toe across the screen. I feel a surge of desperation as Creativity codes, right there in front of me. And although I am supposed to be the one in charge, the one controlling the room and the outcome; in this moment I feel helpless. 

What would the obituary read? What for my love of writing and Creativity have I to show? A collection of work- finished and pressed- not quite. 

So I approach the computer like a forgotten friend. I ask forgiveness and I type away. Line by line, I write blurbs of meaningless thought. But the letters are coming and it's more than I could ask for after such an extended break. "I did not forget you", I whisper as Creativity takes a tiny breath, so light and so short I almost miss it. 

I press again and remember so many late nights. A  spark would fill my fingers and I would fight off sleep just to type. The minutes tick by and all my thoughts meld and before I can try to piece them together, they are on the screen- unedited and exposed because that's how they fell. And I leave them just as they are. I used to think that somebody guided my words, that a visitor came to my screen while I slept and made my sentences flow better than I ever could.

I know if and when my sweet Creativity wakes up there will be lots of questions, mainly my reasons for not visiting. I do not have an answer. I guess I needed time for a break. Creativity would understand as long as it knew that I will not completely give up that younger version. The one that sat with words playing on her tongue until the room began getting light. I never want that to not be a part of who I am. I never want to let it go. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Marching: 7 Simple Shares

Playground in February. Pretending it is spring.
A few random things:

1. We recently painted the kitchen, dining room, and hallway. The entire house was a variety of tan and I needed to break it up a little. I am so happy with how it turned out! The kitchen and hallway are this color and the dining room accent wall is this.

After. Don't mind the phone charger and the few items missing from the sideboard.
2. Have you seen Home? It is Emaline's new favorite movie. I feel like I did not hear much about it when it came out. When I look it up, the reviews are mixed but my toddler loves it and so do I! It is funny and sweet with a positive message and a great soundtrack. You can find it on Netflix.

Nick and I went to a concert last weekend.
3. My favorite song from the opening act is this.

4. And my favorite song from the headliner is this.

5. The show was at House of Blues Boston. We have had friends complain about the venue before and we never understood. It turns out that the floor is great and the balcony is awful. If you ever find yourself looking at tickets to a show there, make sure your tickets are for the floor. Do NOT buy tickets for the balcony. Trust me on this.

6. If you are not yet watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you need to check it out. It is informative, sharp, and seriously funny. It airs Sunday nights on HBO. Nick and I watch on HBOGO through our AppleTV and if you don't have access to that, you can find some of his best segments on YouTube like this, this, and now this.

7. Today starts a new month. If you are looking for some inspiration to start decluttering your house, check out this.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Big Things: Focus


This year, more than any other, seems to carry focus. Not because of some determined resolution but 
because of a path that I have slowly, oh so slowly, been wearing down and creating.

But before I can press my feet into the dirt and continue, I need to take a little bit of time to reflect. A year has ended and a new one has shuffled into place. In reflecting on 2015, the year of balance, it took me a moment to recognize the year as it was. Most of the changes, with some serious exception, are small. A few are light, simple, and fun. But my reason for creating a list is to provide a reminder, context. And in this post of introspection, I realize that 2015 was the year in which this quote proved true:

We rang in 2015 at our house with some of my best college friends. It was wonderful!

A few weeks later, Nick, Emaline, and I flew to Sanibel, Florida with my parents. We rode bikes, collected shells, watched sunsets, drank jai-alai, and swam in the ocean.

While we were there we found out that my Nana Rice was very sick. We wondered if we needed to return home early, but the decision was made for us when a massive snowstorm shut down New England. When we were able to get back,we spent time with my Nana before she passed away.

Nick pulling Emaline through the backyard of the house where my Mom grew up.
My Uncle Paul doing something on the roof. My Nana watching us through the window. The last day we saw her.

On my birthday, we said goodbye to my last grandparent. I wrote about her here. We spent the next few months buried in snow.

When finally the last bit of white melted away, we broke the record for the snowiest winter in Boston's recorded history. And moving forward from that hibernation, I realize now, how many small changes happened then:
  • Started a number of house projects 
  • Tended the yard and gardens around our home
  • Discovered podcasts 
  • Continued to simplify, declutter, and slow my home
  • Began eating more fruits and veggies with a daily smoothie
  • Got myself to enjoy black coffee
  • Started wearing lipstick. (It only took me 32 years to decide that I liked the way it looked.) 
  • Learned to like cooking a bit more and picked up a few recipes
  • Took a painting class
  • Attended networking events
  • Found a workout class that I really enjoy and have stuck with it. Barre!

In May, we celebrated Emaline's second birthday with a big party at our house and got her a swing-set. A few weeks later, Nick had to go to Amsterdam for a work conference and I took the opportunity to join him. We left Emaline with my Mom and traveled Bruges and Amsterdam for six days. It was a great reminder how much Nick and I love to travel together and want that for our family in the years to come. We also:
  • Traveled to Minneapolis three times
  • Vacationed on the Cape
  • Visited the National Seashore
  • Hosted a number of family and friends
The day after we returned from Europe, the organization that I serve as a volunteer board member had our biggest event of the year! We shut down the main street in Portsmouth to host the Stiletto Sprint! A short race run in heels (men and women) to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. It was an incredible event and I am so proud to be a part of it. In our last meeting, I agreed to take a higher position on the board for this coming year.

And at the end of the summer, I got an offer to join a long term writing project. An author who I love and respect is writing a historical fiction novel and has asked me to research and edit. I officially started on September 1st and it is the best!

In addition to this list, are the countless days I have spent with Emaline. Often we are in pajamas, playing hide and seek or babies or kitchen or coloring or singing or freeze dancing. I will admit that sometimes Emaline has to say "Mama, play with me!" before I decide that it is okay to stop what I am doing (this included) and be with her completely. But every night when I squeeze her in my arms before tucking her in, I know this is a time to cherish. And I do. She is no longer a baby but a little person. She is smart, funny, thoughtful, and curious. She counts, sings, knows her colors and letters, uses a high-pitched voice when we play pretend. Every day she does something that just pulls on my heart. This morning she hid stuffed animals in Nick's jacket pocket to surprise him when he went to work.

So 2016, I am ready for you. 2016 is the year of focus. Travel. Finances. Family. Friends. Writing.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday in October: Little Bits of Magic

It is Sunday and football is on. We have nothing planned today and I am happy for it. We will take on a few house projects and hang out as a family. I will write and we will cook dinner together. Days like this are not as common as we would like but so nice when they occur.

This fall Emaline is getting into the season, seemingly collecting baby pumpkins, painting them, placing them on the steps, and repeating the process every time it rains and the paint runs off. I love sitting with her on the deck as she focuses on putting just the right amount of blob and swirl on each little pumpkin.


And my addiction to Netflix documentaries continues. My recent favorites are Maidentrip and Hungry for Change. The second, pushed me into a smoothie kick. I really enjoy stuffing handfuls of leafy greens, carrots, and fruit into our Big Boss blender. I know I am doing something good for myself and it really does taste great! 

All of this
Becomes this.

I am most of the way through Big Magic and love it! I knew I would. Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my all time favorites. I have written about her podcast, her TedTalk, and her books. She is wise and honest and her opinions on art and creativity are so refreshing.

This book could not have come at a better time. I have been met with a very special writing opportunity and have appreciated the encouragement as I begin a new adventure. I will be able to share details with the blog very soon!

**And speaking of creative living, my awesome SIL has opened up an etsy shop! You can check out Smudge Guest Books HERE. Babies, engagements, showers, weddings, little kid birthday, personalized art. Elise is offering a special offer for Write to Simplicity readers. If you order before the end of October and mention this post, you will receive 10% off your order!