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You can find me currently at treadingthetrails.wordpress.com where I’m documenting my thoughts on staying sane by running trails.

A Break For Now

Hi Readers,

I want to thank all of you for reading my blog. As you can see I’ve taken a hiatus for a bit to focus on family and other musings but hope to be back in the near future. Thank you to everyone who has checked back from time to time to see what was here. This process has been quite cathartic and I appreciate everyone who has shared this experience with me!

Ashley

Bunny Crackers

Curious George (book)

Curious George (book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We walked up the stairs together her little feet ahead of mine, cherry socks poking out below her pants.

“I want to read the George book today. The one where he goes swimming.”

“We can do that.” As we walked down the hall towards her room I prompted, “I would like you to try to go potty before stories and quiet time.”

“Nope,” she said in determined toddler fashion. As I looked into those blue sapphire eyes that now glowed with the test of power I decided not to protest.

She immediately found Curious George on the bookshelf and cuddled into my lap. As I read I could feel her soft blond hair tickle my lip. I lifted my chin just enough so that it rested on top of her head. I felt her weight become soft in my lap, arms relaxed, legs hanging loose, her head cocked to the side. The quietness of our moment and energy from the morning began to lull her into an afternoon meditation.

She was liking the new routine of quiet time in place of a nap. After all, she had decided naps were a past time weeks ago and this new arrangement meant she had a chance to play freely in her room. However, staying in her room had proved to be a challenge.

When the story was over she awoke from her trance and settled onto the quilt with her teddy and a few more books. She looked at me with hesitant eyes. The silence between us needed no words. The moment of separation is always so intense.

“Remember, if you stay in here the whole time you can have some bunny crackers when it’s over.”

She nodded, serious eyes but I could see a tip of the lip with delight for the possibility of something sweet. Upon her request I did not close the door but left it cracked. I walked down the hall to my room and settled onto the bed with my book for twenty-five minutes of respite.

She did it. Twenty-five minutes all by herself without coming out. I was enthused to greet her in her room and congratulate her. Upon entering I found her lurking by the door and then my nose was met with the unmistakable scent of a code brown. I refrained from stating the obvious.

She initiated, “Mom, I pooped.” And a moment later, “And I peed. There’s some on the floor over there.” She pointed to two small spots on the carpet by the bed.

“You did?” I remarked trying to mask my sadness.  “Okay, well let’s go into the bathroom and get changed.”

After helping her clean up I said, “If you need to go potty that bad you know you can always call for me.”

She replied using my own words of warning, “But you said then I wouldn’t get any bunny crackers.”

More Inspiration

Here’s a new blog where I’m finding some inspiration. He posted some quotes I thought worthy of sharing.

20 Liter Life

When I’m not repeating this too shall pass to myself as my daughter is smacking her little brother over the head with a box car, simplify has been my mantra of choice. I think my husband might start soliciting neighbors for conversation of another sort if I continue to talk to him about it so I’m taking it to the blog.

A friend recently moved her family of four from her just-far-enough-out-of-town-that-I didn’t-see-her-all-that-often house to a new location right downtown. It is superb. After visiting her in her new digs this week I took an enviable glance at the kids toy room. She and her husband have always seemed to have an understated and in control amount of toys in their house. The kids play with unabashed fervor but when it’s time for clean up it seems to be done within minutes. (I’m guessing she would disagree with me on this one but I’ll go ahead and let her know that’s how it appears.)

I would love for this to be true in our house. And I believe it can be true.

In an interesting twist, the last time I cleaned up the toys the kids haven’t touched them. Six days it’s been. All the toys are sitting along the wall lined up waiting patiently. But right now running back and forth on the couch seems to be entertaining enough. (And dangerously enticing. The one year old has taken to swinging off the back onto the hardwood floor. Be still my beating heart.)

To make matters even more challenging I will admit that many of the children’s toys I love. The Melissa and Doug fruit and vegetables, dress up outfits and accessories, and the large-and-in-charge Green Toys trucks are great. I can’t get rid of those! Don’t even get me started on all the beautiful hand me downs we’ve received from ever so generous family members.

IMG_1765

In addition to my personal vendetta against stuff I’ve been further inspired by a few articles and posts I’ve read and how getting rid of stuff truly enhances the quality of life.

Why I took my kids toys away from the blog Living Well and Spending Less

Zero Waste Home

Becoming Minimalist

IMG_0139

After cleaning out art supplies and books. I still look at this and want it emptier.

I find that I tend to make arbitrary choices in deciding how much stuff I’m willing to keep around. For example, my art supplies needed to fit into the cubbies next to my desk. No more storing extra in the closet or on top of the cabinet. These were just the parameters I set for myself because of the space I had in that room. Arbitrary but in my mind necessary. I have an idea as to the space I will allow for the toys but I know it’s going to be very hard to stick to it.

The bin for toys downstairs.

Toy bin for downstairs.

I’m wondering if you have any further suggestions for how you simplify and then keep it that way. For now, I’ve set a garage sale date as November 23rd. Here goes nothin’.

The Flow of Paint

My mother is a creative being. I don’t mean in the way one’s mom makes ants on a log for a snack or uses a safety pin as a zipper. I mean in a ladybug costume making, Star Wars party throwing, Christmas advent calendar sewing, thank-you card watercoloring, scrapbook compiling, kind of way. She breathes technicolor and dreams in blank canvases.

As you can imagine in my formative years I was exposed to many interesting art projects. Paper making with a sieve, rug weaving, painting furniture, shrink art necklaces, and sewing outfits for teddy, to name a few. Despite the fact that my pores do not seep art like my mother’s, in me she has borne a mind of creativity. I think sometimes my mom believes she failed at teaching me about art because I lack her enviable ambition, her desire to learn new techniques, and take more classes. After all, she has an entire room in her house dedicated to this.

It is true that I possess probably less than 10% of her knowledge but beyond this fact she can be entirely confident that creativity flows within me. Lately however, with two kids to raise art work has been sorely neglected and when I look into my art room my heart is heavy. Colored pencils, paintbrushes, gouache, card stock paper, stickers, albums, it goes on and on. My recent goal of simplifying my life does not run parallel with my collection, plus, each time I attempt to tackle a project I’m paralyzed by the overwhelming possibilities of what to create. What I’m looking at is a complete perpendicular intersection of stagnant stuff and opportunity. One in which I decided I must choose a direction.

I recall a watercolor instructor once stating that she only uses a 1/2” width paintbrush and paints using only Prang watercolors. You know, the kind that kids use in art class. This artist travels all over the country teaching watercolor. Can it really be so simple?

My favorite part about ridding my life of the unessential is that my true passions become revealed. Whether it’s my closet or my kitchen amidst the piles and piles of possessions an unveiling of the soul occurs. When I cleared out my books recently I decided to pick ten which were most important to me and start there. Within the pile were two Spanish books. I haven’t spoken Spanish in years yet I couldn’t let go of either book. I realized the importance of my desire to conquer a second language.

After I finally sat down to clear out my art supplies here’s what I learned:

  1. No one needs 20 different colors of tags to use as embellishments for scrapbooking.
  2. Scrapbooking is not my passion.
  3. 21 coffee stirrers to use as smudging agents are unnecessary.
  4. Markers, pens, and paint, oh my.
  5. My passions are watercolor and calligraphy.

Watercolor and calligraphy supplies are what I preserved in my clean out. This purge has been difficult but at this point in my life my art isn’t as important as doing it with my children. I am thrilled when my daughter asks to paint and her smears of color can be proudly displayed on the refrigerator. My own art will come. That blood does not cease to flow it just changes direction.

I hope to pass on to my children at least a fraction of what my mother taught me and I pray that the paint between my fingers lasts into my years of wrinkled smiles and age spotted hands.

Thanks Mom.

Grey Matter

This poem was inspired from a question asked to me by my father-in-law. Some time ago he asked me if I was happy. He was referring to my marriage with his son and the life we have built together. I answered a simple yes but have always been haunted by that answer. How do you put the emotions of happiness into words? Yes does not seem to do justice. Yes, beyond my dreams still doesn’t do it. Here is my answer. It still seems too simple but it is what I can muster. To my father-in-law, you have raised a good son who puts his family first. I am loved and protected. To my husband, thank you. (Again, I cannot figure out how to separate paragraphs so spacing is off.)

Grey Matter

He goes about his day on an axis,

turning,

rotating,

a slight tilt as if to correct any misunderstanding of perfectionism.

Work is important.

First job of organs under stress needing immediate attention:

appendix, cancer, gall bladder, thyroid.

Second job of serving his country with a flag on his arm:

teaching, flying, medicine at its moment of highest desperation.

Family is cornerstone.

Sunday picnic at the park with bagels and cream cheese,

helping a frustrated jacket zipper or code brown at bed time,

then air through the hair on their way down the slide,

a smile that spans his big daddy heart.

Sacrifice is accepted.

4 AM alarm and running with a head lamp,

football with a joystick and big screen up front,

lager after hours enjoyed in his slippers,

Email forgotten, perhaps intentionally.

When I ask, Could you put them to bed tonight?

Sure, he replies with fatigue in his eyes.

I settle on the couch ready to lift my feet.

I hear shouting, things falling, both kids are now crying.

Footsteps to the stairs, I hear from above,

Could you please help? 

Of course.

For you, always

of course.

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