Less stuff and lighter in spirit

 

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I found these iphones 4, 5, and 6 plus chargers in a drawer.

We moved into this house 25 years ago this month. I have a few areas of the house I like to call “hot spots.” You know, the places where things fill up with stuff you don’t know what to do with. Our closet was definitely one of those hot spots. This weekend my husband and I decided to clear out the closet so we can do some remodeling.

One of my friends warned me when I told her we were getting ready to clean out our master bedroom walk-in closet. “You know what happens when you do that,” she said. “It never stops. You’re going to start a whole house-wide cleaning.”

I bought several clothing racks and we moved our clothes we decided to keep in the guest room—until construction is done. It’s amazing how much easier it is to see what you own and what you want to keep when it’s hanging neatly in the light of day, and not tucked away in a dark closet.

On Saturday, eight hours later with tired, sore back and legs. I was done. I can’t believe the amount of clothing I had stuffed into that closet. We made several trips to the closest Angel View Thrift Shop with our old clothes. Why is it hard to get rid of stuff? It seems exhausting because every item forces a decision. If way back in your closet, clothes are gathering dust, it’s probably a clue to let things go. I feel like I could have thrown out much more than I did and maybe I will.

The excitement on Saturday got me going on the drawers on each side of my sink Sunday morning. Then, I went into the bathroom shelves. There’s no end in sight to all the fun I can have. I still have my kids rooms to go through, too. Whenever they visit, I try to get them to throw their belongings out that they chose to leave behind. They never get around to it, though. I think I’d feel 20 pounds lighter in spirit to go from room to room clearing out all their junk.

We have way too much stuff. It feels so good to let it go. Once you start throwing things out and have made a few tough decisions, it gets easier. Just throw it out and I promise you, you won’t miss a single thing.

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Our casa where we raised our kids.

 

How often do you throw things out and clean out closets? Do you feel a sense of freedom by lightening your load?

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How to catch your dreams

download-2I’ve discovered a few secrets on how to take control of my life and pursue my dreams.

First, have you defined your dreams? If not, write them out. Make it specific and concrete. Write out a few steps you can take right away. They can be baby steps, not huge leaps.

Second, after you’ve written down your dreams and goals do you find that everyday life gets in the way? I’ll sit down and write or make that phone call — after I unload the dishwasher, sort the laundry, and weed the garden. Plus, the car needs an oil, lube and filter. Then, I’ll get started on my dreams.

Third, is it fear that is holding you back, not life in general? Why aren’t you following up on your baby steps? Take a close look at what you’re doing, or what you’re not doing and ask why.

Here are my tips on how to overcome my fears and reach for my dreams.

ROUTINE:

I revel in my routine. I was talking about routines with my husband this morning. He said he believes all mammals crave routines. For example, Olive, our cat, leads a structured life. She stays out all night. She wanders in announcing her arrival with three short little mews at the same time every morning and then jumps onto my tummy. She meows a little louder and wants me to walk her to her food bowl. Minutes later, after I’ve snuck back into bed, she’s back on my tummy for a kitty dance before she settles in for the day.

Baby Olive

Baby Olive.

At this point, I have to slip out from under the covers without disturbing Olive, to start my morning routine.

My routine involves writing three pages longhand every morning of every day. This clears my mind so I’m open to new creativity. It serves as a brain dump to get those niggling uncomfortable thoughts out into the daylight. Some days my morning pages are a long to-do list.

The few times that I’ve missed my morning pages I’m anxious and jittery.

EXERCISE AND FRESH AIR:

The second phase of my morning routine, besides the basics of toothpaste, floss and face cream, is to walk. I walk two miles around my neighborhood and park, marveling at the beauty and how I get another chance to start fresh. I throw in a short stretching routine, sit-ups and pulldowns. Energized and refreshed, I’m ready to start my work.

DO THE BAD STUFF FIRST:

Another tip is to tackle those things that you don’t want to do–first. Get them crossed off your list and your day will open up.

Fear and anxiety can be big blocks. When I take my fear head on I’m motivated rather than blocked. Anxiety is energy. I tell myself to harness and ride it toward my dreams.

I have a sign in my living room that says, “Live now. Procrastinate later.” Such good advice that I try to follow it.

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3 Things I Noticed About An Empty Nest

I wrote this after my youngest left the nest in 2014. It’s 2017 and the nest is still empty, but we get visits now and then. We’ve planned trips to see both kids this fall and I’m looking forward to the moments we get to spend together. All in all, the empty nest is not that bad! Here’s what I noticed the first few months with no kids to take care of:
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Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. Raising two swimmers as well as overly hygienically-conscious kids, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

images-5Groceries

Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

images-4Dishes

 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

The importance of friendships in an empty nest

 

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Back in the busy days of parenting with the gang.

I had a great day yesterday with two of my former elementary and middle school mom chums. I hadn’t seen one of these friends for we figured out—12 years! Where did those years go? They went to busy, busy days of parenting with our kids going on separate journeys and different schools.

One thing all three of us decided at lunch, at Spencer’s one of my all-time favorites, was that we have to get together more often.

How often do you say that to people and it doesn’t happen? Well, all three of us are empty nesters, and we’ve managed to stay busy—but it’s different. I miss the interaction with my friends who were the moms of classmates or swim mates. While you’re in the thick of parenting years, you have all the interaction with other adults every single day. You don’t think about it or that one day it’s just you and your husband staring at each other!

Seriously, sometimes I feel that doing what I always wanted to have the time to do—write uninterrupted every single day—can feel like solitary confinement. I’m not a terribly social person, but without the chats on the playground, play dates in the park, or sitting with fellow swim parents at meets and practice—it’s a quiet life.

So, in addition to swimming Masters with my swim friends, I’ve made a pledge to not let my older friendships slip by. I’m glad my friends agree and we’re going to actively work to get together more often.

And I’ll treasure the time my husband and I have together and to go on new adventures together—as well as the ability to write without interruptions from the kids. It’s a good life, after all—but friends make it even better.

 

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More adventures to come….

What do you do to make sure you stay in touch with friends?

 

7 Things I Miss About My Daughter Now that She’s in College

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Here’s a story I wrote after moving our daughter out of the house into her college dorm. As she begins her senior of college, I enjoyed re-reading my thoughts about the empty nest.

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

Kat swmming

Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her.

What do you miss most about your kids?

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Nostalgia for the iPod nano—and the kids

 

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A view from our seven-mile hike.

 

I’m feeling nostalgic today. Maybe it’s because I cleaned out my son’s desk drawer or maybe it’s because he spent a few days with us this past week. We enjoyed talking about years gone by, memories of his childhood and listening to music together. We even took a seven-mile hike and camped overnight in the nearby mountains.

Back to today, I decided to clean out his desk and I found his high school IDs, ACT and SAT reports and the most important electronic device in his life—an iPod nano, circa 2005. He would have been in middle school at the time. His nano opened his world to music and he was the envy of many of his school friends and swim mates for a few months—until everyone had one. I remember years with his nano with him at all times.

I searched through other drawers to find a charger that had a really, really wide base. I don’t remember the chargers being that wide, do you?

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My son’s 1st generation iPod. It was engraved on the back with his name and “I think therefore iPod.”

 

I found one in my daughter’s desk—next to one of her formerly prized possessions, a Pantech slide phone. How tricky was that? How on earth did she text on it? I never got the hang of it. She loved the phone because it came with a big sliding screen—and a camera.

I charged up the nano and listened to a few of my son’s songs. Then I tried to charge the old phone of my daughter’s. I wanted to take a peek at the photos she took on her first phone with a camera. I texted my son that I had found his iPod nano and I was going to mail it to him. He surprised me with a “please don’t.” I guess I’m the one feeling nostalgic, he’s over it.

I found an article about the history of the iPod. Here’s the section about the 1st generation iPod nano by Jacob Kastrenakes in “The iPod nano had a weird, amazing history.”

Like the iPod Classic three years before it, the iPod nano’s death today was a long time coming. But years ago, before the product stalled out, lost its identity, and was made wholly unnecessary by the iPhone, it featured some of Apple’s finest design and arguably represented the iPod at its peak — tiny, fun, and focused.

1ST GENERATION, 2005
My favorite iPod nano iteration has always been the very first one (seen above). It came in black and white with a silver back, like a shrunken-down version of the classic iPod, and it felt immediately retro. It wasn’t throwing back to anything — just the iPod released a year earlier. But it was as though the nano had leapt so far ahead as to make the traditional iPod feel like a thing of the past, like the nano was a modern riff on technology we used to use and love.

What were your favorite devices 10 to 15 years ago? Did you have an iPod too?

 

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Hiking.

 

Farewell Old Car, Your Time Has Come

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Memories of days filled with laughter.

The final straw was a couple weeks ago when I woke up in the morning to a flat tire. I called Triple A and had them put on the spare. I was driving the puppy to a vet appointment and then to the gas station to get my flat tire fixed, when the tire fell off the car and flew across the road, dodging two oncoming cars and landing in an unsuspecting yard.

I freaked out to a grinding and dramatic crashing noise. I was stranded on the side of the road with a three-month-old pug. I shook as I assessed my predicament and wondered what to do first. Waffles the pug snored in his carrier, oblivious to the freak accident and my stress.

That was the final straw. There have been a few others, like my husband being stuck on the 91 freeway, right before the 241 toll road, when the car broke down. Triple A had a tough time sending out a tow truck, because drivers refused due to the recent death of a tow truck driver in the same spot.

In the later years of owning a car, sometimes it’s tough to make the call when enough is enough. Car buying is almost as painful as anything and expensive, so it’s easy to put it off for a few years.

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Laguna Beach with kids and dog.

Especially with this car. There were so many memories with the beastly Sequoia. Hauling pop-up tents and kids to meets stand out the most. We could put six kids comfortably in our car and often did.  Summer vacation with the car packed to the hilt, complete with 108-pound Angus, our faithful yellow lab (RIP), camping trips, driving a carful to the Getty for a Latin field trip—the list goes on and on.

We have no need for an eight seater. We aren’t hauling pop up tents or children to meets. We’re now in the phase of life where a two-door would be fine. But it’s like closing the door on one part of our lives. When we finally say goodbye to this old car, it’s like we’re saying goodbye to days filled with so much fun and laughter.

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Carpinteria camping trip with Angus.

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This old car is filled with memories.