Know Yourself

May 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

Gretchen Rubin maintains that the most important rule of happiness is to know yourself (Be Gretchen is her direct rule).  This has become my latest mission because I feel that so many of my previous labels and definitions are fading … I’ll soon be an empty-nester (no more “working mom” “band parent” or “pit crew” … and I’m working my way toward retiring from my day job “manager” and I find myself really questioning what I like.  What do I like to do?  How do I want to spend my time?  Who do I want to spend my time with?

And because there are no obvious answers to those questions (other than spending time with my husband when he’s not traveling), I find myself in the process of redesigning my life.

I am (almost) not sad about this.  I LOVE the process of designing my life when it’s my choice.  And I WILL get to the point where I fully embrace the fact that my children growing up and leaving is good.  And when that time comes, I’ll be ready.

Here’s what I know about myself so far:

  • I am an introvert.  This means that although I love public speaking (only-child who likes to be the center of attention), I don’t network or make small-talk.  And I realized last night that having people unexpectedly knock on my door is unpleasant for me.  This knowledge will help me determine what will work best for work, housing, social networks, etc.
  • I am a rebel. I resist both inner and outer expectations.  I like this about myself, but it means I have to get sneaky to move forward in areas that are important but not urgent.
  • I am a minimalist.  Not yet in practice, but in my heart I am weighed down by the consumption and maintenance of stuff.
  • I am an environmentalist.  Again, not always in practice, but I am saddened by the unnecessary waste of natural resources.
  • I am a geek.  This is one area where accumulation of stuff is not an unwanted weight.  I also justify because this is my work as well.
  • I am a creator.  This is one I struggle with because as I mentioned here I’ve tried many ways to create and haven’t found “my thing” yet … but I’m not giving up.

And as Gretchen points out, knowing yourself includes knowing what you are not.  As she says, this is the more painful part … deciding when to let go of previous aspirations or beliefs and embracing yourself fully.

  • I am not outdoorsy.  Although I loved going to and working at a summer camp growing up, the allergies I’ve developed as an adult (trees with leaves and grass) make it far less enjoyable.  If I move back to the ocean or into the pine tree forests, I can re-evaluate but for now, I prefer my walks in downtown.
  • I am not athletic.  This one is really tough to let go of because I played so many sports growing up — softball, volleyball, tennis, soccer.  If I come across an “old sucky sports” league, I can re-evaluate.

So that leaves a lot left in the unknown category … good for me because I also like to try new things!

Hobbies and labels

September 23, 2013 § 1 Comment


One of my areas of clutter is what I think of as “aspirational” clutter — stuff that I hang on to because it’s something I plan to do.  I feel like hobbies are good … men have them, women need more of them (I don’t know why I think this, I’m still analyzing this but I think it has to do with how my husband has this thing — golf — that he can turn to whenever he needs to let off some steam or get together with his friends.  I don’t have anything like this and most of my girlfriends don’t either.)

I pursue new hobbies with gusto for at least a couple of weeks  (maybe even months or years in a few cases) — and then I’m done.  I think of it as a “trial run.”

So far, I’ve “trialed;’


  • bought the book on best places for day hikes in Nashville,
  • took the family out each weekend for a month to new and exotic hiking spots;
  • decided the best one was close to home;
  • decided that it was just as pretty to walk in my neighborhood;
  • decided that I should walk my neighborhood every morning;
  • decided that was “exercise”
  • haven’t “hiked” since.


  • Took lessons
  • bought the bag, rackets and outfits
  • played twice with the family
  • decided I’m not a tennis player


  • took lessons
  • had clubs made
  • bought shoes, bags, outfits
  • golfed maybe ten times? (though I DID get a hole-in-one which was epic)
  • decided I’m not a golfer


  • Bought the guitars (four, one for each)
  • signed up for the guitar lessons
  • practiced twice
  • stopped lessons after six weeks (if you don’t practice what you learn, the lessons don’t help)
  • decided that I’m not a musician

Crafting – I’ve pared most of my crafting supplies down to what you see in the cabinet above, but it’s still clutter:

  • Scrapbooking — hundreds of dollars of supplies, a dozen scrapbooks, several weekend “retreats” with girlfriends … this lasted probably two years and then petered out for another five.  I finally got rid of all but one bag of scrapbooking supplies.
  • Stamping — more hundreds spent, monthly club joined, an entire cabinet dedicated … lasted probably six months with gusto and then petered out over five years.  Have another remaining small bag of supplies.
  • Jewelry-making — Took a class, bought some materials, bought an anvil, bought some head bandannas (because jewelers wear bandannas on their heads right?)
  • Crochet — took lessons, bought yarn and pattern books
  • Knitting — took lessons, bought needles more yarn and more pattern books
  • Sewing — took lessons (multiple times), still can’t follow a pattern)

What’s interesting is that I would still say that I like all of these things … in small doses.  I think it’s the pursuit of more that ends up spoiling it …

  • burn-out from over-doing something;
  • guilt over the cost of the materials;
  • rebellion against the created obligation to spend time doing a specific thing;
  • labeling” myself in a way that ends up not feeling authentic.

Still on the list of things I might want to try:

  • cyclist (not road cycling, but in-town cycling wearing normal clothes) — need to live in a flatter location or closer to town
  • yogini — I do return to yoga regularly, always starting from the beginning and I enjoy hatha-style in my own home (I do have at least six yoga mats!) — I would like to some day be good enough to stand on my head
  • dancer — I danced when I was young and enjoy it.  Would like to find some good country line-dancing or swing to do with husband, but so far none locally
  • upholsterer/home decor sewing — although I take sewing classes regularly, they are almost always focused on following patterns to make clothes so I’m not as enthusiastic … I would like to be able to make slipcovers or to modify existing clothing from the goodwill
  • Metalsmithing — jewelry is not really my thing to make, but I would love to learn how to solder and weld … again the ability to upcycle existing things is more interesting to me
  • Writer — I don’t think blogging is necessarily my gift, but do enjoy some type of writing … still down the road for me but getting closer

What do you think?  Have you developed a hobby that stuck with you?  How does it make your life better?  Should I keep trying?

You are what you read?

July 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m a firm believer in feeding my brain (and I think I do a much better job at what I feed my brain than what I feed my body … maybe there’s a lesson in there for me?).  I read mostly non-fiction and I have a variety of what used to be called “self-help” books in progress at any time.  Over the past several years, I’ve added several on-line sources of what I now will just categorize as “inspiration” though not in the traditional sense of being related to spiritual matters (though some are).  I find these readings inspirational because they open my eyes to new thoughts, ideas and possibilities.

Current Books:

Quitter by Jon Acuff: This is one that I’m in the middle of listening to on Audible.  It’s read by the author who feels a little full of himself, but with the ability to recognize his own ego and occasionally poke fun at himself.  He’s now employed by Dave Ramsey as a writer and speaker and he definitely has a message.  In this book, I’m learning new ways to think about my day job while also planning for the much-coveted “dream job” (which in my case hasn’t been identified, but I’m sure it exists nonetheless).

Lean-In by Sheryl Sandberg: I just finished listening to this one (not read by the author) and was really impressed with how much was thought-provoking, actionable and insightful even though I’ve been a lifelong feminist working woman, raised by at least three generations of feminist working women.  Before purchasing this book (which was recommended to me by a co-worker), I made sure I wasn’t investing a dime in the female CEO who recently eschewed maternity leave and has now revoked telecommuting for all employees (that was Marissa Mayer for those looking, the CEO of Yahoo, who is defended by Sandberg for her maternity choice, but who remains on my naughty list for her hypocrisy — she worked from home during her last tri-mester but subsequently made that option unavailable for employees).

A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson: I am trying to listen to this one periodically along with the companion book, Meditations for Weight Loss.  There is some good stuff in here and I really want to like Williamson (and have two other books of hers on my shelf unread), but her voice grates on me and her attempt to mix traditional images of God with new-age philosophies always feels contrived.  The audible Meditations do work for putting me to sleep and using the sleep timer option on my iPad, I can only hope that some of that good stuff is getting into my subconscious!

Recurring Books:

There are some books that I’ve had in progress for years because they either have homework that I’m “fixin to do” (for the Texans out there!) or because I get something back each time I pull them out.

Eight Weeks to Optimum Health by Andrew Weil: I started reading when my now-18-year-old daughter was a baby and I’ve honestly never gotten past the first few chapters, but those chapters CHANGED MY LIFE specifically news fasting and the power of breath.  I rarely pick the book up anymore, but have gone to for years whenever I wanted to understand a health issue and possible answers.

Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach: I read this all the way through the year I turned 40 and keep it the hard-copy by my bed and a Kindle copy on my cloud reader for morning mediation and journaling.  I had finally come to the realization that wanting is part of the human condition (after making myself stressed and crazy for years trying to satisfy all of my family’s wants without success) and this book helped me understand that so much of what makes our own lives special and memorable are simple, starting with gratitude.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: I think I’ve read the book all the way through at least once, but I also read her blog so things get a bit blurred.  Rubin takes some of the things that spoke to me in Simple Abundance and carries them further with practical application as well as some other know-thyself types of things (are you an abstainer or a moderator?).

Current blogs or podcasts:

I use some blogs like I do Pinterest or Houzz — for visual inspiration.  I’ve categorized them as follows:

Bikey Stuff: because I dream of living in a bikeable town so I can get out of my car occasionally.
Bikeyface (I love her drawings) and LovelyBicycle (beautiful photographs of bikes).

Inspiration: these are just blogs with random tidbits like the above — usually the summary and photo is enough, but occasionally I click in.  This includes 1000 Awesome Things; Holy Kaw and The Happiness Project.

Future books:

I’ve already downloaded several on my Kindle or on Audible that are waiting to be started (or to be restarted when the time is right):

48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller

Get Satisfied: How 20 People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough by Carol Holst and Peter Whybrow

The Minimalist Woman’s Guide to Having it All by Meg Wolfe (I actually started this and there is homework — I’m working on my homework)

Loving Yourself Thin by Patricia Bacall

Quiet Influence by Jennifer Kahnweiler

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

The Firestarter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte

Simplify by Joshua Becker

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (recommended by a colleague at the FBI)

52 Small Changes by Brett Blumenthal

The Flinch by Julien Smith

Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

William Morris Project — the “Starbucks Lounge” (formerly known as the office)

July 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

2013-07-05 08.28.21

I spent some time over the past two weeks clearing out clutter and finishing what we now affectionately call “the Starbucks Lounge” because it reminds me of some of the early Starbucks that we visited with comfy chairs and a general coffee house look.  Since most of our reading is now done on digital devices (computer, kindle, ipod, etc.), we have no need for bookshelves for our reading place (and in fact, my decluttering involved donation of four bookcases and their contents).  This room used to be my office.

What we love about this room:

1. The Art Wall — I’m blessed to have a “personal collection” of art — my daughter is an artist, one of my dearest friends is an artist, my father-in-law was an artist and his grandfather was an artist (skips a generation?)  My uncle was a photographer and some of his work will be on display in my living room once that’s complete.

2. The mismatched, accumulated-over-time look — the couch and coffee table came from the living room, the two wing chairs came from thrift stores several years ago and have been in use in other areas of the house.

3. The coziness — the walls are the same color as most in our house (as we bought it) but the color changes appearances in different light (you can see that in the photos).  It’s a warm color (called “Starbucks,” coincidentally) and though I find it a bit dark in some rooms, for this room, I love it.

4. The cost — so far, we’ve used items we already had elsewhere in the house so we haven’t spent any money.

5. The simplicity — As I’ve said before, I’m an aspiring semi-minimalist.  I’m not interested in white walls and sparse furnishings, but in having ONLY things that I know to be useful or believe to be beautiful (ala William Morris).  To prepare this room, we boxed and removed everything; decided what purpose we wanted the room to serve; decided what items would be required to fulfill that purpose; and removed everything else.

2013-07-05 08.28.07 2013-07-05 08.28.14

Still to be done:

1. Some kind of window valance

2. Patching and touching up paint on leftover holes from the previous hanging artwork

3. Converting french doors to barn-style sliding doors (DH is doing this and currently has one door up for testing — we’re DIYing it rather than spending the $600 for the hardware we wanted.

William Morris Project — the Office

June 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

I work from home many days and have allocated a rather large space on the main floor just for myself (great, right?!).  Today it’s filled with a HUGE desk that has become a magnet for clutter and the whole room has become a junk pit that is neither productive nor inspiring.  I’ve decided that I like to work in different spaces depending on what I’m doing — sometimes at my kitchen table, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the couch — so I will sell the HUGE desk and turn this room into what we call the “Starbucks lounge.”  I envision this as a room where DD will enjoy doing her homework (she likes natural light) and where a family member can enjoy reading without being distracted by the television or chatting happening in the other rooms.


  • The space — it’s bright with wood floors and french doors
  • The location — it’s at the front of the house right off the front door and has visibility to the “dining room” and the entry and front staircase
Office before

Office before

Office before detail

Office before detail

To be beautified:

  • Remove the clutter
  • Remove the desk
  • Add comfy love seat (from living room)
  • Add two chairs (existing wing chairs, though would like to recover or replace at some point)
  • Add art wall

William Morris Project – The Living Room

June 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve recently discovered a lovely blog “Pancakes and French Fries” which covers a multitude of topics but my favorite is her William Morris Project … “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

And in this theme, I will copy Jules with my own list of rooms and beautification projects, but I will also highlight those things that I already love — either because of their usefulness or their beauty.

To begin … the Living Room:
We currently have just one living room for the four of us — a gathering space where we watch movies, read, nap and where youngest DD does homework.

  • Truly comfortable couch and love-seat (great for sleeping, cozying and reading and great for keeping pets off unless wanted — they don’t like the leather unless there’s a blanket or pillow)
  • tables with built-in storage
  • colorful rug
  • squishy pillows
  • tv over fireplace (I know it’s not a decorative statement, but we love having it off the floor and centrally located)
  • overall coziness (probably due to warm wall color … not chosen by us, but perfectly matched to our own curtains and former chenille furniture)


To be beautified:

  • Break it up — love the couch and loveseat and coffee table, but really don’t love the combination of them together — too much brown. Add two comfy red (favorite color) leather (pets) chairs and a kilim-ish ottoman or two. remove the brown coffee table and the brown loveseat. 
  • Artwork — paintings in small grouping are from DH’s family (father and g-grandfather); would like to create larger grouping with additional paintings that I love and make more of a visual impact.


  • Relocate other functions — DD currently does her homework from this awkward corner (in part because older DD has taken over the library as her own) and we have a random guitar over a slipper chair that I love but who’s purpose is questionable …


Next up: My Office


Gift giving

January 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

My daughters each got a “Girl Scout” shirt

Because I have teenagers and my nieces and nephew are all in the tween and teen years as well, Christmas gift giving has become a transfer of gift cards in recent years.  This year, I decided to give cash.  That way my beloved kids can spend — or save — as they choose.  They get what they want, and I’m not perpetuating necessary consumption.

In an effort to keep the gift thoughtful and personal, I folded the money using origami techniques.


Older nieces got bow-ties

Nephew and youngest niece got hearts



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