Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making space

Whew. . .what a lot has happened since last I wrote!  Five trailer loads and one hurricane later, we are settling into our new house and beginning the process of making it feel like ours.  As I work on my new home, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the making of spaces.  Part of creating a home, at least for me, involves the creation of favorite nooks, the discovery of little surprises hidden until one actually lives in a house.  Some are discovered, like a view from a window or a particularly fantastic sun-lit corner.  Some are created with paint, elbow grease and often a few tears of exhaustion.  One at a time, this is how I make a place my own, carving out spaces for daydreaming in the cradle of cozy familiarity.

So far, these are my favorite spaces in our new home:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

House and home

Yikes! Any of my Michigan friends see what's wrong with the keys we were handed
by the sellers of our new house?
Today we bought a house.  We went in a small office in a fancy building and after signing an impossibly tall stack of papers, we were given keys and told it was ours.  A house.  Ours.  As I dwell in this state of extended in-betweenness we call "moving", this middle space of both homelessness and an overabundance of house, I am reminded of how deliciously disruptive a move can be.  Shaken from the ease of my everyday and uprooted from the familiar, I am left once again to question my attachment to what surrounds me, weighing the value of each item as I hesitate between the Good Will pile and the keepers.  Do I love this slightly broken chair enough to load it in and out of a truck?  Do I need this old sweater enough to take it along for yet another beginning? And, ultimately, the question that echos most resoundingly in every moment I linger in limbo: Where am I amid all of this stuff?  What is me and what is just more baggage along for the ride? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Committing to balance

"Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act."
                                                               -excerpt from Oh, the Places You'll Go! 
                                                                                        by Dr. Seuss

I had a lovely call from my dear friend Beth today wishing me a happy belated half birthday.  She reminded me of how awful my real birthday was this past year (nothing like a bout of shingles to help you celebrate your 31st year on earth) and thought it would be fitting to celebrate now that I am recovered and feeling alive again.  What a difference six months makes!  This time six months ago was a personal record low for my health that set off a disturbing run of illnesses that I can only infer were stress related.  Now, refreshed and renewed from my summer break, I am full of a desire to do things differently, to commit to this elusive "balance" that I, like so many others, so desperately seek.  Yet even as I begin to dip my toes back into the treacherous waters of balancing work and life, I am reminded of the complexity of the demands, the sparsity of the hours in the day and how easy it is to get swept up in the grind.  So this got me thinking. . .what do you do to achieve and maintain balance in your life?  How do you cope with the stress?

I know that exercise has always been a key ingredient for me---running, swimming and yoga in particular.  Creating space and structured time to connect with my body and escape my head for a bit seems to do wonders to re-calibrate my sanity.  Yet despite my best intentions, once the pace of life picks up and the competing demands of family life and work spin their perilous web, I seem to always lose sight of this and opt to work or rest through time that could have been spent pounding the pavement.  Intellectually I know better yet somehow I get swept up and all of a sudden it has been three weeks since I last broke a sweat.

So, my friends, as I take in a few big gulps of deliciously summer-laced air before diving in, what bits of wisdom do you have to offer?  What tips do you have for staying balanced amid the tumult of a busy life?

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Monday, August 22, 2011

What the heck do I do with this leftover watermelon? Part Deux (A.K.A. Grilled Watermelon Salad)

Okay so here is what I am learning:
1) I have been denying all of my watermelons all of these years the chance to live up to their full potential.
2) Sweet and salty is freaking fantastic.

Turns out that watermelon is pretty amazing, especially when paired with something savory and salty.  Still basking in the whopping success of last night's adventures with Tomato, Watermelon & Feta Salad, I set off today to finish off that last 1/4 of a watermelon.  This one was a straight up recipe road test thanks to The Recipe Girl and her amazingly easy Grilled Watermelon Salad recipe.  (Be sure to check out the link to see her amazing presentation!)  That's right---grilled.  Makes sense when you think about it.  Watermelon is to summer barbecue what cranberries are to Thanksgiving. And so I imagine someone somewhere had a couple of cold ones, was a little bored flipping the burgers and thought "Why not?".  Pure culinary genius.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stepping away from the mirror and into the self

I have a dirty little morning ritual of looking through the yahoo news headlines while drinking my coffee. This morning, I was intrigued by a YouBeauty.com on Shine article about a bride who has sworn off mirrors for a year, which got me to thinking: Why do we look at mirrors so frequently? According to the article, recent studies show that the average number of times a woman looks in the mirror is over 70 times in just one day and Renee Engeln-Maddox, Ph.D., psychology professor and body image expert at Northwestern University, says that "constantly checking ourselves out in the mirror can be bad for our mental health". So what gives?

Having sworn off scales myself after the hard work of untangling some serious eating and body issues in college, I can relate to this bride's desire to rewrite the script of self-examination. In an effort to focus on how I felt rather than what I weighed, I made the conscious and strangely terrifying choice eight years ago to no longer weigh myself. Never. That means no scale in my house, the awkwardness of turning my back at the doctor's office and exercising tremendous restraint at friends' houses. (Although I admit to the weakness of secretly weighing myself in the aisle of a Walmart bathroom section at least two times.) It was a somewhat drastic move but a necessary step towards healing and making friends with my body. When weighing yourself becomes a ritual that has the power to change the course of your day, your mood and your self-opinion, it's simply time to step away from the scale.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What the heck do I do with this leftover watermelon? Part 1 (A.K.A. Tomato, Watermelon & Feta Salad)

Why would I think this watermelon was the right size for our family?  It's seriously bigger than my daughter's head!
Oh my goodness have I stumbled upon some yumminess to share with you.  You are going to obsess over this one.  (Or maybe you're just not the kind of person to obsess over food in which case, who are you and what is that like?)  I think it just might be my new summer potluck dish---Tomato, Watermelon & Feta Salad.  I know.  Sounds weird, right?  I was skeptical too, especially regarding the feta factor.  But alas, today I decided that I could not let another pile of leftover watermelon go to waste.  Something about watermelon makes me overestimate what my family of three can consume.  It just looks so darn good but after the second day of sticky summer sweetness, those juicy wedges just start to lose their luster and pretty soon I am sick of the space the sizable hind of the leftover half watermelon is hogging up in my fridge.  So what's a gal to do with a half a watermelon and no one to pawn it off on?  Watermelon, after all, is a cancer-fighting superfood and a one-way ticket to the bin is no way to treat such a gift of nature.  You wouldn't put Superman in the trash if he stayed a little too long, would you?  Not on my watch.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fun-kid-elic Activities: Homemade ribbon wands

Yes, that is a calf garter you see. What can I say?  It came with the costume.
You're thinking of that scene from Old School, right?  The one where Will Ferrell busts out a fabulously awkward yet strangely graceful ribbon routine to the tune of the theme song from Chariots of Fire?  (If not, you have to check this YouTube clip out.)  Well, take that mental image, subtract the gracefulness and add a toddler-sized tiara and you pretty much know what I was up to this morning.  Just another day in the life of end-of-summer motherhood.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A stolen moment with the rain

in secret
and under the clandestine cover
of a slanted awning,
I stole a moment
to be with the rain.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The castration of a carrot

Every morning after breakfast Siena and I like to go examine our garden to see what grew overnight. Inevitably, as we near the bed with the carrots, she asks if we can pull one up.  Can I get her to eat the carrots I lovingly prepare and serve her on her plate?  No way.  Apparently this in no way compares to the delight of unearthing a carrot, washing it off and gnawing away.  And so our carrots lie in wait for our morning walk.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just a Little Tipsy: What to buy a 3 year old

Seriously. . .what do you buy for this?
Since I am both a teacher and a parent, it may surprise you that I find something crippling about purchasing a gift for someone else's child, particularly if the age of their child exists somewhere in the grey area between the precise age of my own child and the middle grades students I love to teach. The task of gift purchasing casts the recipient in a strange role, the glare from the spotlight illuminating their foreignness until I am certain I have no idea who they are. Who is this alien child and what makes them tick? And so I inevitably find myself wandering the store aisles of some clever toy store, arms weighted with a hazardous combination of what I imagine I might have wanted at said age and gifts I am secretly wishing I could play with now. The alien child slips even further from my reach as I exit the store empty-handed but for the perfect gift I just discovered I needed for my own child. Sigh.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The ebbing tide of summer

This one goes out to anyone who, like me, is feeling the perplexing blend of terror and excitement that comes with an impending school year.

The ebbing tide of summer
is pulling me away
from carefree
from the luxury of a mid-day nap
from candying lemons
from "What shall we do today?"
from the simple beauty of
bats dancing intricate patterns
across the glory
of a sky that hesitates
between day and night

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fun-kid-elic Activities: Nature is the best paint brush

Today was one of those glorious summer afternoons where the mosquitoes called in sick and the breeze picked up their shift.  It was also one of those loooooong summer afternoons when it became glaringly apparent that I have officially run out of ideas to keep my preschool-starved child busy.  So having discovered that the house was mysteriously 10 degrees hotter than sitting in the shade, I packed up my daughter's IKEA easel (love that thing!) and created a little artist's studio outside.  We've done this before but today's outdoor art session came with an extra twist.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just A Little Tipsy: Vinegar in your laundry

Okay so in keeping with this beach theme, second only to my disdain for sandy butt syndrome is my ire for the stench of moldy towels.  Call me snobby but wiping dry with a towel that smells musty makes me want to step right back into the shower and start over again.  You know the smell I'm talking about, right?  Maybe you left the laundry in the washer and forgot about it for a few days too many (oops) or maybe you left the beach towels in the beach bag until your next trip (ick) but either way, once that smell grabs hold of fabric, its hard to shake.  I have tried re-washing, doubling the detergent, even buying the heavy duty stuff designed to eat odor.  Yet even as my hope swells when I pull those clean towels out of the dryer odor-free, it's one shower later and the smell is back, leaving me wedged between the urge to pitch them in the trash and my frugality that refuses to quit on anything potentially salvageable.

So imagine my amazement when I discovered that. . .wait for it. . .

Just A Little Tipsy: Baby powder knows where my sand goes

Do you ever stumble upon a tip that is so fabulously simple and wonderful that you just can't wait to share it with other people?  The kind that you find yourself trying to slip into conversation because it has made your life so much easier, you want to find ways to pass it along?  Yes, I am that person.  The one lurking behind you, waiting to drop a tip-bomb on you that, while perhaps remarkably off topic, will send you running to do your very own road test.  And so, through the magic of the internet, allow me now to indulge in some good old fashioned tip-ology.

Baby powder is the antidote to sandy butt crack.  It is.  But let me, ahem, back up a bit.