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mishinctrl

Control is overrated. Musings of a stay at home mom, an aspiring writer, and a spiritual seeker.

Moments with Zoe

Every weekday, your dad and I wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes he hits the snooze button, but eventually, he gets out of bed and gets dressed. I lay there listening to the white noise machine playing nothing through the baby monitor on my bedside table. Every day your dad comes to my side of the bed on his way out. He kisses me. I tell him I love him and to have a good day, and then he goes to work.

Most days I wonder how I got to be this lucky. I am no longer defined by Continue reading “Moments with Zoe”

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A Little A-Twitter This Morning

I was minding my own business today, sitting at a national brand coffee shop drinking my venti® blonde roast, while Zoe attends two hours of day care at the community center across the street.  I thought I’d take a moment to write, because I haven’t been hitting my resolution to do a mini writing exercise every day.  So out onto my screen came a journal entry about how I’m conflicted about my next career move, in a year or two, whenever Zoe goes to school.  I’d paused to check my email (yes, i left the 12 minute timer running and checked my email to see if anything important had come in, feel free to snort milk out of your nose at my wandering focus).   But in my email was this tweet:  What matters is how quickly you do what your soul wants and it immediately resonated (like a deep gonging bell ringing at the top of a medieval church tower).

Did you know that Buddhists don’t believe in the concept of a soul?  They also don’t hold with the concept of ‘I’ either.  But before I chase you away with that discussion – let’s just assume for the sake of continuity, that we can exchange the idea of ‘Buddha Nature’, or what Christians would consider your truest, purest, most compassionate, most God-Like version of yourself, for ‘Soul’.

If it hadn’t before, when you insert that idea instead of soul in the tweet above, does your inner bell gong too?  Mine did, and does, and I stopped writing about possible career moves as far as 2 years in my future, and I looked around me.  I am sitting in a coffee shop, drinking coffee, writing, while my husband is working to support our family, and while my daughter is getting a good dose of peer interaction at a reasonably priced child care provider in the neighborhood.

This hip national brand coffee shop has been recently remodeled and is lit with the gentle glow of no less than 21 pendant lights, 28 spotlights, and 16 can lights.  That is 65 separate lights to create the urban, now, vibe that is conducive to sipping their bitter coffee and conversing with friends and neighbors.  They are also playing, softly, some pleasant, upbeat music that makes me want to dance just a little bit in my seat.  I am here, in this epitome of American luxury, with free time, an American commodity in short supply, and my soul says to open my eyes; to be grateful for the blessings in my life; and to practice being present for the wonderful, the mundane and especially the uncomfortable that may arise today.

So I will practice being open to what comes with equanimity, and to being grateful for everything in my life: the nice things that bring me pleasure, and the uncomfortable things that are just a reminder that life is impermanent, and that I have an opportunity to practice responding to the world however I choose.

So maybe I will go home, feed Zoe lunch, and mop the floors today.  They are beautiful floors, and I love the way they look when they are clean (and good grief, i’ve been putting it off for a long time).  Maybe I’ll tackle putting away the pile of (thankfully) clean laundry piling up in my awesome basket system in the laundry room.  Whatever I do, I think I’ll take the opportunity to do it fully present, so that i don’t miss a minute of this beautiful life of mine.

Reclaiming Worthy

For Christmas this year, my father-in-law gave me a beautiful leather journal. It’s bound in thick black leather with a brown Celtic knot inlaid on the cover. It is classy, heavy in the hand, the pages are thick and blank, and to me it screams that I’m not good enough to write in it. I’m a little sad to admit that, but that’s where my mind when for a moment. This is the second beautiful, intimidating, perfect leather journal I’ve received in my life, and it seems like a good time to contemplate the significance I have placed on these types of items, and my idea of worthiness.

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When I graduated from college, my sister, Sherri, gave me airplane tickets to Europe out of Seattle, her hometown. It was the most astoundingly generous gift I’ve ever received, and a testament to the support and friendship she has always offered me. The plan was for me to leave from Seattle, so we could see each other before I left and right when I got back. I was over the moon with excitement and gratitude, and spent months planning my trip and gathering gear. When I left Portland, my best childhood friend, Melinda, gave me a beautiful Italian-made travel journal bound in brown leather with a world map cover secured with leather ties.

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It was a luxurious and lovely book. I had seen journals like this over the years, but never dreamed of buying one for my scribbles. I’d already planned to take my current journal with me. It was more utilitarian; spiral bound, ruled, and wrapped in corrugated cardboard. It felt much more appropriate for my prolific and messy journaling.

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The travel journal was a thoughtful gift from a friend I’d shared everything with since we were eight years old, and I thanked her profusely. She wouldn’t listen to my objections that it was too pretty to write in, and inscribed it with the instructions to keep track of all of my adventures in it.

So I packed it, along with it’s lesser twin, in my backpack, and set off on a seven-week solo trek through Europe. It was arguably the biggest adventure of my life. I met other travelers in hostels in Amsterdam and I bumped into friendly locals over breakfast in a crowded London cafeteria. I took guided ghost tours in Edinburgh and checked out recorded audio tours in the Louvre. I skipped Barcelona when my bag was stolen in Nice, but I met Kristin in Rome and we travelled together for a week. With so much time to myself, I documented everything in my journal – the cardboard one to which I felt so attuned.

As I wrote this post, I searched my bookshelves for the leather travel journal, but I couldn’t find it on display. I had to think for a minute to remember where I might have stashed it, and from the filing cabinet in our guest bedroom closet, I pulled a yellow ditty bag, packed full of seven weeks worth of maps, train and museum ticket stubs, brochures, business cards, and two travel journals from my European Adventure. The cardboard version is filled, cover-to-cover with my notes, experiences, and a meticulous record of all of my accommodations during the trip. The leather journal is in decent shape, the four corners a little worn from sitting inside the ditty bag for so many years, and eighty percent of the book is still blank. The first entry, dated April 24, 2000:

As my first entry in my new journal I find that I want to write something tremendously important or noteworthy. Just look at this book. It is beautifully hand bound in Italian leather and it came all the way from Firenza to find me. Funny that I should bring it back to Florence with me on my trip to Europe, but I never wrote in it for the entire seven weeks. I believe I was too worried about marring its beautiful finish.

But here I am, writing the days thoughts down without care for penmanship or spelling. All in all, it is my book, my tool, and my weapon. I will be the only one to look at it until I am long past caring who sees it.

There it was in black and cream: I received it as a gift and carried it on my back for thousands of miles, but I never dared write in it for fear of ruining it. And t top it off, it was eighty percent blank, so I hadn’t even drank my own Kool Aid.

I could spend some time analyzing where this idea of my unworthiness came from, but I doubt that naval gazing of that nature will be as helpful as simply changing my mindset. Because I do think it’s part of the human condition to feel not good enough, at least sometimes.   The question to ask ourselves is: who makes that determination? And the next question is: who says we have to take them as an authority? So I’ve eighty-sixed the unworthy critics in my head, and I will continue to work on evicting them whenever they make another unwelcome appearance.

And this is one of the steps I took to assert my own worthiness: After receiving my wonderful Christmas gift this year, I determined I was not going to place it on a pedestal, or myself in a subservient position unto it. I cracked it open the day after Christmas, one lovely blue felt tipped pen in hand, and proceeded to write a tidy little journal entry complete with one word I struck through just to break the spell of perfection over it and claim it as my very own.

Then, it occurred to me that I did not need to be bound to just the written word in this beautiful book. The pages were unlined, so I could doodle and scribble to my heart’s content, and I went a little wild doodling artistically (in my own small way) on a few pages. Then I went really crazy and wrote some new years resolutions down really large, at an angle, with a lot of exclamation marks. From the outside all beauty and presentation, and on the inside, it’s a party too, just my style.

And now it occurs to me that these journals are just pieces of paper on which to write.  They are just a vehicle, and there’s nothing sacred or unholy about any of them. Whether I write on paper bound in leather or in cardboard, it doesn’t make the work any better or any worse.  The words are mine, for what that’s worth, and for me, I’ll do my best to make them matter.

 

Gratitude 37 Ways

I was really happy to see a gratitude post from a new blog I’m following (shout out to Catherine Ryan at TenThousandHourMama).   I believe in the power of gratitude to change a negative into a positive, and I loved that this exercise was a chain letter invitation from Tales From The MotherLand, who initially invited a group of her blogger friends to share gratitude by doing this exercise at a party. What a powerful way to harness some really uplifting positive energy!  Here are the instructions:

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list (the timer doesn’t matter for filling in the instructions, intro, etc). The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at the very bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

This list represents my third attempt to let the gratitude flow from my brain out my fingertips and onto the screen. Strangely, I’ve been in a bit of a funk when it comes to doing this exercise. After trying two different sessions yesterday, I didn’t want to give up on this – this chicka is not going to get pent up about gratitude, that should be super easy to riff on for ten minutes…. So here it is, in it’s third incarnation.

Gratitude 37 Ways:

  1. I’m grateful for the ability and permission to change my mind.
  2. I’m grateful fro my laptop that gives me a beautiful space to create, and a space to goof off, search the web, and see what other people are writing and creating.
  3. I’m grateful fro our Prius, and that it is paid off.
  4. I’m grateful to be debt free.
  5. I’m grateful for being able to rethink my life’s priorities in 2015.
  6. I’m grateful for a patient, supportive, and caring husband.
  7. I’m grateful for a precocious and adorable two-year-old daughter.
  8. I’m grateful my dad survived his heart surgery.
  9. I’m grateful my family takes care of our family.
  10. I’m grateful for my six amazing (impressive), talented, caring, funny, siblings.
  11. I’m grateful for their billion (19) kids.
  12. I’m grateful Zoe and I made a road trip to Utah to see Dad and the fam over the summer.
  13. I’m again grateful for a loving and supportive husband who told me to stay as long as I needed.
  14. I’m grateful to have freedom and space to decide what I want to do every day.
  15. I’m grateful to have worked in a place with such an awesome mission as OHSU for almost 18 years.
  16. I’m grateful that I left my job in good standing.
  17. I’m grateful for my home.
  18. I’m grateful for the neighbors that live on my street.
  19. I’m grateful that there are three other children that live on this block and that Zoe has gotten to grow up with them so far.
  20. I’m grateful that we live near a walking path and that there is a Starbucks a mile and a half up.
  21. I’m grateful for coffee roasters near and far. I love the dark brown brew!
  22. I’m grateful for the sunny summer that Portland had – it was so wonderful to be outside enjoying the beautiful weather.
  23. I’m grateful that we live only 90 minutes from the beach.
  24. I’m grateful Zoe is my little travel buddy.
  25. I’m grateful that Zoe is strong and healthy and smart and beautiful.
  26. I’m grateful that we spent so much time walking this summer.
  27. I’m grateful for all of the luxuries I enjoy that I often take for granted such as:
  28. Running Water
  29. Electricity
  30. In home washer and dryer
  31. A clean home
  32. A covered garage
  33. A safe neighborhood
  34. Good schools for my daughter to attend
  35. Political stability in our country
  36. A democratic nation
  37. The freedom to agree or disagree with my political leaders

And then the timer rang. Perhaps if I’d started with the one or two word answers, I’d have reached fifty items or if I’d attempted it as a race.  But I feel blessed and grateful for everything I listed, and a whole host of things I didn’t get to (like my wonderful girlfriends!! And my health, and my garden, and chocolate… to name a few).  I hope that even if you aren’t able to do this exercise, you’ll spend a moment or two thinking about what you feel gratitude for, and see if it doesn’t leave you feeling better than when you started!

PS. A big thank you to Alene Davis for the last minute Christmas Photo Shoot.  Your photos are beautiful, and you are a wonder woman, thank you!!

 

How-To: Make Your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Well, there’s nothing like putting your New Year’s Resolutions on your blog to really cement them in your mind, and in the minds of your readers…  but I do LOVE this time of year.  Right about now, I feel weighed down by the excesses of Christmas and ready to make a clean fresh start in the New Year. It’s time for healthier eating and aspirational thinking.

For the past few days, I’ve been jotting down notes on things I’d like to accomplish this year, and that makes a perfect place to start.  If you are new to goal setting (and that’s what Resolutions are) it can be overwhelming, so I’ve laid out guidelines that I use to help me set good goals and accomplish them:

  • Create clusters of goals in all areas of your life.  My brother turned me on to this type of goal setting, and I love it because it’s wholistic. This does require a little self analysis, but in my book, that’s always time well spent.  I’ve created the following categories that feel like they envelope my inner and outer life, yours may differ:
    • Physical
    • Spiritual
    • Mental
    • Financial
    • Family
    • Home
  • Craft goals around what you really want to achieve.  For me, this means that while I have a definite interest in arts and crafts, I have a more intense and urgent desire  to write.  I also got to the end of the year feeling like I hadn’t accomplished what I wanted to with my writing, which lets me know I have more room to grow in that area.  I will therefore create writing goals to focus my energy on work on my writing craft.  I will undoubtedly do something crafty this year (I hope) but I’m not going to create a resolution around it. This is about focusing on what is truly important to you. It’s deeply personal, and is a sure way to change the direction of your life over time.
  • Create reasonable short term, long term, and stretch goals where appropriate.  And it’s appropriate if your goal is large, undefined, or complex.  Some goals don’t require further breakdown, and that’s okay too.  The key is be realistic about where you are, and about what you can reasonably accomplish this year.  If you live 3 hours from the beach and you work a demanding full time job, surfing daily might not be a reasonable goal.  But if your dream is to relocate so you can surf every day, a reasonable short term goal would be to investigate real estate and job markets in potential beach towns. Your mid term goals could be to interview with 3 companies in the next year. And your long term goal would be to move closer to the ocean.
  • Align your goals.  Set goals in one category that reinforce and support goals in other categories.  I have daily walking, meditation, and writing goals.   It could be a huge time commitment if I don’t allow my goal categories to overlap, but I’ve decided that walking, writing, and sitting meditation are all acceptable.  There will be days I can do all three separately, and surely there will be days it will be a struggle to fit in just one.
  • Give yourself permission to be imperfect.   Setbacks can be part of the process, but nothing leads to failure faster than setting the bar too high and missing it. So in addition to paying attention to setting reasonable goals, be your own coach.  I don’t mean the angry yelling coach, but the kind, all knowing gentle coach that gives you the words of encouragement you need to keep trying.  Give yourself a kind pep talk, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and try again.
  • Take time to assess and regroup.  I accomplish goals in fits and starts, and I don’t accomplish every goal that I set.  If you have a 100% success rate, you may not be pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.  If we have the perspective to recognize when we’ve outgrown one desire, or that it no longer serves us, it is immensely liberating to drop it in the dust and regroup. This does’t mean we abandon goals that are difficult to accomplish, it means we stay connected to the process, and to how progress on this particular goal feels.  If accomplishing milestones brings little or no satisfaction, then re-evaluate and ask why you set this particular resolution.  Was it for you, for the voice in your head, or for someone else?  Staying tuned in to the actions we take every day, and knowing our motivations for them, is the surest way to get a self directed life. For me, this is an evolving process, like peeling back the layers of an onion (Shrek, anyone?) .

I created this table to list my personal goals – and I broke them down into manageable daily goals, note that this is a work in progress:

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I laid out goals in other areas of my life, and monkeyed with the categories I listed in the guidelines above to make sure I covered all of the important things (like Friends and Emergency Prep):

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The layout above is a great overview, but many of these individual goals can be broken down further, as I did my personal  goals, to make them more manageable.  I’ll revisit this list in the coming days and weeks, an will add more details.

Other tips for achieving your goals:

  • See them – Make them visible (print them out and place them where you can read them frequently – refrigerator door or bathroom mirrors are good spots).
  • Share them with people you trust.  They can help keep you accountable, but they can also help you troubleshoot difficulties, or clarify your thought processes if you find yourself making no progress.
  • Revisit Them –  write on your calendar (right now) times to assess and review your goals. I picked the third Sunday of the month as a good day for me to review my progress and make any course corrections.

I’ve had a great time walking you through my resolution process, and I’m excited to have such a great start on my 2016 New Year’s Resolutions. So now let me know what you think:  Do you set new year’s resolutions?  How long do they usually last?  What helps you accomplish your goals?  What do you find inspiring, and what have you abandoned as less than helpful?

I hope you found this helpful and I wish you a year of personal success and happiness!

Note to self…

Dear Me in 2016,

As you look forward to 2016, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the milestones achieved last year and what challenges you’d like to take on in the coming year.

In 2015, you transitioned from a full time job to become a stay at home mom. Your stress level has shrunk to a nearly undetectable level most weeks, and that is a major accomplishment. Before you quit, you envisioned a developing spiritual life through a deepening meditation practice, but in reality, you meditated once since you quit your job. In 2016, continue your efforts to know thyself with a more formal meditation practice. Be it walking, writing, or sitting meditation, spend some time every day in your own head to learn what makes you tick.

This year has seen it’s share of political upheaval Continue reading “Note to self…”

A Christmas Craft (Take Three)

I’ve been wanting to do something like this since I saw it in a store in Iowa.  Last week, we walked to the park and found a giant obliging brush pile with lots of potential home decor candidates.  With tons of optimism, I returned with clippers and cut a few branches to compare.  I ended up selecting this one because it had a great side branch, and some beautiful moss.

When I brought the branch inside, it left a layer of dirt underneath it, so I promptly took it back outside for a good whacking to loosen any other debris.  I didn’t want to change the natural beauty of the bark and moss, so I chose to sacrifice longevity by not adding a preservative.  I think another option would be to remove the bark, maybe sand down the underlying wood, then treat it with a clear coat of polyurethane to seal it up.  But that’s another project.

For anchors on the top of each limb of the the branch, I used eye hooks from a picture hanging kit.  I eyeballed the ceiling and hung a somewhat corresponding plant hanger and two additional white hooks where I wanted the branch to hang.  Note: When I hung the branch from the ceiling, the lines did not hang vertically, and I was a little disappointed.  If I had it to do over again, I would see if I could dab some paint on the branch hooks and press it against the ceiling to mark where the ceiling hooks should go, this would give a more vertical hang.

I did my first iteration of the project by hanging five red glass ornaments from the branch.  But after I hung it up, the thought ‘I need more cow bell’ crossed my mind.

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The second iteration took longer to implement because I wanted the ornaments to hang from the same length of fishing line, something I was willing to fudge in the first iteration because it just didn’t cross my mind.  With more ornaments, though, I wanted them to hang a bit more evenly and follow the curve of the branch. I rehung the original five and added ten more ornaments, and I used a thicker fishing line to hang it from the ceiling.  This was the undoing of iteration two.  As soon as I’d hung the branch from the first two hooks, I let go to reposition my step ladder, and the knot holding one of those two hooks came undone.  The branch swung and   must have lifted itself off of it’s hook, and the whole thing came crashing to the ground.

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In this picture, you only see a few ornaments, and a bunch of the ornament tops.  The weight of these glass bulbs and the force of the swing pulled them from their housings! I was able to recover 10 or 11 whole ornaments of the 15 I’d used, but decided anything hanging so precariously from my ceiling should be shatter resistant.

Thankfully, Zoe was upstairs attempting to take a nap and I was able to clean up without any toddler wrangling.  I was pretty demoralized at this point, and wished I’d tested the new knots I’d tied, but in the end, I’ve decided I’m glad it happened so that I could move onto iteration three!  My stick, adorned with fifteen strands of fishing line, each holding a pretty gold ornament top sat in the garage for a few days while I regrouped.

But a few days later, I picked up some shatter proof ornaments and decided to make the third time the charm.  Did I mention I was an optimist?  I balanced the branch between two chairs in our kitchen, and straightened out the existing lines.

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Then I removed each of the existing ornament changes, and looped the remaining loop through the new ornaments, readjusting the spacing of each line as needed.  And if you note the state of the house in this pic – yes, I’m embarrassed to admit this is what it looks like when I’m in the middle of a project.  Chad is happy this project is done, we’ve gone back to a more livable space.

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I retied new lines to my eye hooks on the top of the branch (and then I tightened and tugged on them to test them).  And then I hung in our front room.  Success!! I like the look of this branch, and we’ll see how it survives the season.  Perhaps I can repurpose the branch for the next holiday.  Now if only I had a spotlight to show them off!

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Just in Time for the Holidays!

Christmas Gift Spoiler Alert (for my family): I’ve been making these sweet bird feeders for Christmas and I got SO into it, I’ve inadvertently created my own cottage industry… all over the kitchen table… my desk… our console table… the garage…  I’ve posted a few in my *NEW* ETSY store (my store name is – you guessed it: Mishinctrl).  And I thought a good ol’ blog post would help to advertise.

Do you have a bird enthusiast or gardener in your life that would appreciate a beautiful and quirky addition to their yard?

Continue reading “Just in Time for the Holidays!”

Emergency Prep – Another Bite

One Sunday in September, Chad and I streamed the season opener to Oregon Field Guide:  Unprepared: An Oregon Field Guide Special.  The topic was emergency preparedness, or the lack thereof, in Oregon – so we thought we should pay attention.

It was an eye opening episode and I picked up these points while I watched (I recommend watching, these were just the points that resonated with me):

  • A major earthquake of the Pacific Northwest (and broader area) is geologically 100 years overdue.
  • Almost all Oregon bridges are at risk in a major earthquake.
  • Repairs to local water and electrical could take from a few weeks up to a year.
  • Restoration of emergency services (police and fire) could take from a few weeks up to a year.

Those four zingers of information were catalyzing for us Continue reading “Emergency Prep – Another Bite”

Emergency Preparedness – One Bite at a Time

September is Emergency Preparedness month.   It’s a great time of year to think about what your family will need in case of an earthquake, power outage, or other natural disaster.  Kathryn Shulz’s article The Big One was published in the July New Yorker.  Its focus on the catastrophe that awaited the mostly unprepared Pacific Coast spawned discussion on talk radio, news segments, and additional articles in our local paper.  I wanted to make sure our family had a plan to weather something big, like a major earthquake, or even something minor, like losing power for a few hours or a few days in an ice storm this winter.

But Emergency Preparedness can be overwhelming.  In a recent post in a mom’s group I participate in, one of the very pregnant mom’s asked if anyone was thinking of emergency preparedness.  And while the conversation helped identify an emergency preparedness expert in our group who is putting together a get together to discuss this topic (sweet!), it also uncovered a general feeling of ‘being overwhelmed’ by the task.   Continue reading “Emergency Preparedness – One Bite at a Time”

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